6.07.2012

One-on-one with NFL native Houstonian Russell Okung on why it is important to give back to the community



(Blogger's Note: Russell Okung, an offensive tackle for the Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle, left the gridiron for a day to impact his hometown Houston community by sponsoring the 2nd Annual Okung 76 Fun Day last month. The Okung 76 Fun Day results from the Russell Okung UP Foundation, Okung’s charity with a mission to reach out to children of single parent homes. I went one-on-one with him.) 

Brother Jesse: Can you give me a little background about your family?

Russell Okung: I am Nigerian. It’s running tough through my veins. I'm very proud of my family when it comes to that and who I am. That's my heritage.

Brother Jesse: What was the day like when you got drafted into the NFL?

Russell Okung: It was almost surreal. You practice for something for so long and it materializes right in front of you. You're speechless. You just can't thank God enough. That was such a blessing. I still can't believe it sometimes.

Brother Jesse: As you know there are so many young people out there with the dream of making it to the NBA or NFL. How difficult was it to get to that spot and maintain yourself?

Russell Okung: It's tough. It’s very tough to get into the league and maintain that status. It’s all about hard work and being dedicated to it. Go get it. Regardless of what anyone says. You always can do it.

Brother Jesse: I heard you say that you started your foundation to focus on single parent households. Why is that the focal point? Were you raised in a single parent household?

Russell Okung: Yes, I was raised in a single parent household, but I'm finding out a lot of people were. Those houses need help most. You got a mother working two and three jobs, trying to take care of two, three and four kids. And this is normal, so what I can do to help I will. But it’s even bigger than that. I want to be active anywhere I can.

Brother Jesse: I can appreciate you doing that because I grew up in a single parent household on the North side of Houston, so I understand it. Let's talk about the football camp. Is it just for teaching about catching a football and tackling or is it bigger than what people may think it is?

Russell Okung: Yes, it's way bigger than that. Of course we're teaching blocking, how to be a running back and the fundamentals. It's really about giving kids an opportunity to learn something new. I rather they be out there learning something from us than to be out doing something else. Football is a great game of character. It teaches you so much about yourself. We have a chance to show that to them.

Brother Jesse: What did you think about the outcome of this year's camp?

Russell Okung: It was amazing. The community supported the event. We had about 400 that registered. It's getting bigger and bigger each year. I hope that possibly we can move it closer into Houston to get more kids involved; get more families involved. I'm just looking forward to the future.

Brother Jesse: I always like to ask people this when I interview them. If there was one quote you would tell young people to live their lives by, what quote or message would that be?

Russell Okung: I have so many. We have this one quote we always say, especially in the locker room. "Go to work". It's about your approach to everything in life. Just go to work. Go to work. No matter what. Every day put your hard hat on and you tackle the obstacles.

Brother Jesse: Thank you!