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Okoye living in the past

Updated: April 12, 2007, 10:01 AM ET
Three events from the past few weeks have made me feel slightly older: 1) undergoing a bachelor party and realizing my tolerance is miles away from its pre-engagement level; 2) attending Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera concerts within an eight-day span; (I know, I know. Look, I'll explain later.) 3) walking through the hallways of Lee High with 19-year-old phenom Amobi Okoye.

Okoye was reminiscing. The DT from Louisville was cruising the hallways of his old stomping grounds, remembering the glory days, the simple days (you know, back in '03). On the right was his old homeroom, where he once received his only detention. On his left was biology, his favorite class. Straight ahead was the lunchroom, sporting posters of dances and bake sales, where he chugged all those noontime chocolate milks. "It seems so small," he said, pausing to touch a bench. "Man, it's good to be back."

It kind of hit me right then: If Okoye feels old right now, what are the rest of us supposed to feel? After all, Okoye is a senior to most of Lee's current seniors by only a year. But he wanted to take in his past at a time when everyone is obsessed with his future. And, as I write in ESPN The Magazine this week, Okoye is as hyped as anyone to see what kind of impact he makes. After all, if "Phe" (his nickname) plays a snap in Week 1, he'll be the youngest player in NFL history to do so. No one is more aware of that fact than Phe himself.

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