“Alex was so unselfish. He played anywhere we asked him to,” said Texas head coach Mack Brown. “When we were short on the defensive line two years ago, at 260 pounds he played all year and never griped one bit. He became a great team leader.”
Okafor is the first Longhorn selected by the Arizona Cardinals since DE Sam Acho was selected in the exact same position (103) in 2011. Prior to that, OG Leonard Davis was selected second overall in 2001. DE Lance Wilson was selected in the 12th round in 1992 when they were known as the Phoenix Cardinals. Okafor will join Acho as well as former Longhorn C Lyle Sendlein on the Cardinals roster.
A Texas defensive linemen has now been selected in every draft for eight straight years including Kheeston Randall (Miami Dolphins, 2012) Sam Acho (Arizona Cardinals, 2011), Sergio Kindle (Baltimore Ravens, 2010), Lamarr Houston (Oakland Raiders, 2010), Brian Orakpo(Washington Redskins, 2009), Roy Miller (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2009), Henry Melton (Chicago Bears), Frank Okam (Houston Texans, 2008), Tim Crowder ( Denver Broncos, 2007), Brian Robison (Minnesota Vikings, 2007) and Rodrique Wright (Miami Dolphins, 2006).
Okafor, the 2012 CFPA Elite Defensive Lineman Trophy winner, registered a Valero Alamo Bowl record 4.5 sacks in the Longhorns 31-27 victory over the Oregon State Beavers on December 29 in San Antonio. In Texas’ dramatic come from behind win, Okafor tallied eight tackles (5 solo), 4.5 sacks, six tackles for loss and one forced fumble. Texas set a Valero Alamo Bowl record for sacks with ten against Oregon State, shattering the previous record of five, which is shared by four teams.
“We think he can play end and he can play outside backer,” said Brown. “The performance that he had against Oregon State was unbelievable with four-and-a-half sacks- it broke a record. Again, I think his [best football] is ahead of him because he is going to get bigger and stronger. He is a four-year guy, just like Marquise [Goodwin], neither one red-shirted. He has a lot of up side.”
In 2012, Okafor led the team in sacks (12.5), QB pressures (18), forced fumbles (4) and tackles for loss (18). He tallied 68 total tackles (42 solo), and he also registered one blocked kick. His 12.5 sack total is the third best single-season mark in Texas history. The Pflugerville, Texas, native is a fourth-year player who has appeared in 52 games on the defensive line, including 33 starts (tops on the defense). He had a 32-start streak end due to injury in the 2012 Kansas State game. He was voted 2012 Team Captain (along with Kenny Vaccaro) at the end of the regular season by his teammates. He earned the Roy Williams-Joe Jamail Leadership Award, shared the team's Clyde Littlefield Most Spirited Defensive Player Award with Desmond Jacksonand Kenny Vaccaro and also shared the team's Joseph W. Moore Tenacity Award for Defense with Vaccaro.
For his career, Okafor has tallied 178 tackles (92 solo), 22 sacks, 38 TFL, 54 quarterback pressures, 8 forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Okafor isa two-time first team All-Big 12 choice (2011-12), the 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year by CBSSports.com and was named to the 2012 Nagurski Trophy, Bednarik Award, Lombardi Award and CFPA Defensive Lineman of the Year Trophy watch lists. He was tabbed 2012 preseason first-team All-America by Athlon, Blue Ribbon and Phil Steele magazines and was a 2011 AFCA FBS Coaches' All-American. Okafor was also a unanimous 2011 first team All-Big 12 selection (Coaches) and was named first team All-Big 12 (AP, Kansas City Star, Fort Worth Star-Telegram) and second team (San Antonio Express-News) that same year. Okafor is a two-time academic all-district selection and a three-time member of UT's Athletics Director's Honor Roll.