Former Notre Dame defensive end Romeo Okwara went undrafted out of Notre Dame following the 2015 season. Six leaders later, he just signed a three year, $39 million contract extension with the Detroit Lions. From undrafted to making $13 million a season in just six years.
Okwara’s NFL career started off like his collegiate career at Notre Dame – slowly. He spent two seasons with the New York Giants, but played sparingly and spent part of the 2017 on injured reserve before getting cut in the final roster cut-downs at the start of the 2018 season. The Lions claimed Okwara on waives the next day and haven’t looked back.
Things started off slow for Okwara at Notre Dame as well. He was forced into action before he was really ready. Okwara came to Notre Dame at just 17 years old, but still played as a true freshman because of the depth problems that plagued Notre Dame in the early years of the Brian Kelly era until the roster was rebuilt. Those snaps ended up costing Okwara a 5th year in 2016 that should have been preserved for him.
In 2015, Okwara registered 8.0 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss for the Irish enroute to their appearance in the Fiesta Bowl. His NFL career has followed a similar trajectory. In his first season in Detroit, Okwara led the Lions with 7.5 sacks while starting 15 games. Not bad for a guy the Giants cut in training camp that year.
After posting just 1.5 sacks in 2019, Okwara bounced back with 10.0 sacks in 2020. He parlayed that breakout campaign into the big contract that he signed earlier today. Still just 25 years old, this might not be the last big contract that Okwara signs in his career. He is still getting better and by the time this contract runs out, he’ll only be 28 years old.
In 2020, Okwara was reunited with his brother Julian who the Lions drafted in the 3rd round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The younger Okwara spent much of his rookie campaign on Injured Reserve, however, and finished the year with just three tackles. Like his older brother, he has three years left on his contract with the Lions as well.
The Okwara brothers are two of four Notre Dame players on the roster of the Detroit Lions. Former Notre Dame safety Jalen Elliot and tight end Alize Mack were on the Lions roster in 2020 as well.
Okwara is the latest Notre Dame defensive lineman to sign a big contract in the NFL. Stephon Tuitt signed a five year, $60 million contract extension with the Pittsburgh Steelers.