But the setback
on Okpro's mind this week as he prepares to leave with Team Canada
for the NFL Global Junior Football Championship in Houston is a
28-21 loss to the U.S. in the final of last year's event.
The Canadians were up
14 points with less than three minutes to go, but gave up a touchdown
with 15 seconds left to force overtime, where they lost on the extra
period's first possession.
"I get a second
chance to win something," Okpro said at his Pierrefonds home.
"It's so hard just to get there, then to lose is so heartbreaking."
Even with the bad memories,
Okpro appreciates the chance to be there during Super Bowl week
for a second straight year. Team Canada will compete in a round-robin
of 14-minute games against Japan, Russia, Mexico and a Houston-area
all-star team representing the U.S. The championship is a full-length
game played on Jan. 31, the eve of the Super Bowl.
"It gives you a
chance to meet players from across the country, players you normally
play against," Okpro said. "It was a nice experience going
down there to represent my country."
Okpro's tough luck in
the big game is made even more difficult to swallow by the fact
he has always excelled at his position.
He was named the league's
most valuable defensive player in his second year of midget football,
when he scored eight touchdowns without playing on offence. He had
four punt returns, three interception returns and scored another
on a fake punt.
He was the CEGEP league's
rookie of the year three years ago, and was named to the all-star
team last season when he had a league-best nine interceptions.
This year, Okpro tied
for the league lead in interceptions with six, the drop caused more
by opposing quarterbacks' reluctance to throw in his direction than
any slip in his level of play. He also was the league's best punt
returner with a 10.6-yard average and two touchdowns.
Okpro expects to continue
his football career at Concordia University next fall, after which
he is hoping for a shot at the CFL. He has good size for a corner
at 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, and isn't afraid to use it to his advantage
bumping receivers coming off the line.
But before those aspirations
can be realized, Okpro's got a score to settle in Houston.
Copyright 2004 Montreal Gazette