The Bears defensive line had a standout performance against the Raiders with defensive tackle, Amobi Okoye, registering a sack, his fourth of the year. This week, Okoye will be making his presence known for his efforts off the playing field as he hosts The GEANCO Foundation’s Premier Concert Gala at the Museum of Science and Industry this Saturday, December 3.
Proceeds from this fundraiser, entitled the Health and Hope for Africa Concert Gala, will go toward the Foundation’s mission of building a modern hospital in the impoverished Anambra State of Nigeria where Amobi is from.
lodeplus.com Chicago got a chance to speak with Amobi this week to talk a little football and also about the charity fundraiser he is hosting.
Examiner: Against the Raiders, the defensive line had one of its best games of the year. Is the unit getting better as the season goes on?
I think we had a pretty good game, but ultimately we didn’t get the “W”, and that’s what it all comes down to. I’d rather get a win than have a good performance and lose the game.
Examiner: Has defensive coach Rod Marinelli’s system and the rotation at defensive tackle helped you this year?
The rotation has helped. We had a similar rotation in Houston and it’s a good way to keep guys fresh throughout the season. Coach Marinelli has been phenomenal in coaching us and he teaches a lot of great technique when it comes to D-line play.
Examiner: In addition to preparing for the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday at Soldier Field, you are hosting an important fundraiser for your homeland of Nigeria. How is your speech coming along?
I don’t think I will be making a speech, but I will be there to lend my support. The GEANCO Foundation is working in partnership with my own foundation and we are working not only to help adults, but also improve the lives of children in Nigeria. Our long term goal is to build a hospital in Anambra State, where I’m from, and also, a prep school campus to help kids get a better education.
Examiner: How did you first get involved with Dr. Godwin Onyema and the GEANCO Foundation here in Chicago?
Our familes knew each other and we got in touch a couple of years ago back when I was still playing down in Houston. We met last year and decided it would be a good idea to work together on this project.
Examiner: You moved to the United States when you were 12 years old. Do you make annual trips back home to Nigeria?
I have made an annual trip back home to Nigeria for the past four years, since I got drafted in the NFL. It’s a way of giving back and I’m trying to popularize American football in Nigeria, first with flag football and soon we will be instructing on more of the contact aspect of the game as it’s played here in the U.S. Part of the teaching is helping kids stay healthy and structure their lives better.
Examiner: The plan is to build a hospital in Anambra State, the part of Nigeria you are from. Is that area particularly impoverished?
Yes, it’s a very poor part of Nigeria. But we have good natural resources and it’s a good farming area there, so a lot can be done. I grew up in Lagos (Nigeria’s capital), but I always go back to Anambra to visit too.
Examiner: How do you like living in Chicago and playing for the Bears? Are you ready for the cold weather?
I love everything in Chicago. Love the team, the locker room, the coaching staff, the Chicago Bears organization. I think I will be ready for the cold weather here.
Examiner: The hitting gets a little harder in cold weather, so you should like that.
Yeah, that’s right. That will help in my adjustment to the cold weather!
Examiner: You majored in psychology in college. What plans do you have for your career after the NFL?
I made a commitment about a year and a half ago, that after my playing career was over, that I would go back home to Nigeria as a doctor to help the people there. I still hope to play a long time in the NFL first (Amobi is 24 years old having been a rookie at age 19!) and to become an All Pro caliber player and win a championship in Chicago. But after football, I plan on getting my MBA and going back home to help people.
Examiner: Amobi, thanks for your time. Good luck against the Chiefs this Sunday and for the rest of the regular season. And good luck on your charity work this weekend and in the future.
Thanks, I’m looking forward to this weekend and the rest of the season.
Tickets for the gala, which includes dinner and live entertainment, are available for purchase online at www.GEANCO.org. Special VIP guests will be available for interviews and red carpet photo opportunities.
In addition, there’s a party scheduled on Friday, December 2, where Amobi and his Chicago Bears teammates will be attending along with Dreamgirls Broadway actress Syesha Mercado to promote the Saturday Concert Gala. The party is at Gold Coast’s Proof Night Club and runs from 8 to 11 p.m. and is open to the public. Tickets for Friday cost $20 and are available at www.GEANCO.org. and will also be available at the door.
About The GEANCO Foundation
Dr. Godwin Onyema and his family founded the GEANCO Foundation in 2005. The Foundation’s mission is to improve the lives of Nigeria’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens. Accomplishments include organizing symposia on HIV/AIDS, malaria and maternal and infant health, which were keynoted by Nobel Prize and Academy Award-winners and multiple orthopedic medical missions to Nigeria as well as the development of a world-class hospital, Augustine Memorial, in Anambra State, Nigeria. The GEANCO Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt organization