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SIU's Okon catching up for lost time this summer
Joe Okon went the extra mile Thursday afternoon at the Troutt-Wittmann Center.
When you and I do a pull-up, we work until our head or shoulders reach the bars, and go back down. Okon, a 21-year-old inside linebacker for the Southern Illinois University football team, pulled his feet over his head, then got ready for another rep Thursday as part of his summer conditioning program.
This summer is not merely about staying in shape and getting ready for the two-a-days that await Okon and the rest of the Salukis in August, when football officially gets started. This summer is about catching up for lost time. It’s about adding more muscle to his 6-foot-3, 245-pound frame, and, maybe, adding a little agility to his feet.
And Okon, a fourth-year junior this fall, was pretty agile last year. He finished second on the team in tackles with 71. Okon had 33 solo stops and 6.5 tackles for loss, which ranked fourth on the team.
This spring, however, he missed a few weeks of practice because of precautionary testing for a possible heart condition. The tests came back normal, he said, but, when you’re in one of the toughest Football Championship Subdivision conferences in the country, three weeks is three weeks.
“I’m just looking to take every part of my game to the next level,” Okon said. “I want to get stronger, faster, more flexible. Summer is a pretty big part, because I missed about three weeks of spring ball because I had to get some testing done, some precautionary stuff, and that kind of set me back. So this summer, I’m just looking to get better.”
Today, he’ll be back at it for the tougher portion of the week’s workouts. Mondays and Thursdays are dominated by short sprints and lower-body weightlifting. Tuesdays and Fridays, the hard conditioning and upper-body challenges, bring the kinds of things that make even the best-conditioned athletes fall to their knees.
Last week, Okon said, his group had 150-yard shuttle runs that were timed. After that, they had to push Prowler sleds with 350 pound weights on them as far as they could, outside.
“Everybody was pretty dead after that,” he said.
One of six returning starters for the defense this fall, Okon will have to play a big role in the Salukis’ push back to the playoffs this year. If his head-over-heels effort Thursday was any indication, I’d say SIU probably doesn’t have much to worry about there.
By TODD HEFFERMAN, The Southern