IRVING, Texas – Henry Melton was Amobi Okoye’s teammate for two years with the Chicago Bears. He thought they became good friends, so when Okoye stopped returning text messages last year, he was surprised.
“Then someone ended up telling me and I was like, ‘What?’” Melton said. “And then soon after he was out and started texting me back, then started talking to see what was really going on and he said he was all right.”
Okoye spent roughly three months in a coma as a result of anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a potentially fatal brain disease. He had to learn how to communicate all over again. A high school graduate at 16, who his agent, Ian Greengross, said could have gone to Harvard, Okoye had trouble with the simplest tasks.
Now he is close to returning to full football duties with the Cowboys, having signed a two-year deal in the spring. He was cleared medically last week, but the Cowboys have kept him on the non-football illness list so he can work on his conditioning before getting in pads.
Defensive tackle Terrell McClain played for the Houston Texans in 2012 and ’13 and several teammates were close to Okoye, who was that franchise’s first-round pick in 2007. He knew bits and parts of the story, but learned the rest this spring from Okoye.
“It’s a blessing to be able to come back from his condition,” McClain said. “I didn’t know him back then, but getting to know him now and what he’s been through and what he’s going through to get back to this stage, it’s really inspirational. I’m always working out with him, learning things from him. It’s going to be great to see him back on the field.”
Melton said Okoye is no different than he was when they were together in Chicago, with one exception.
“He’s kinda fat now,” Melton said. “Other than that, he’s the same guy.”
Melton laughed as he said it, but knows how serious it was for Okoye.
“To see him come back,” Melton said, “and be the same guy, for him to do all this is amazing.”