Behind The Mask: Amobi Okoye

The following is part whatever in a series of posts where our top writers for the Battle Red Onion tag along with our favorite players for the Houston Texans to learn about their lives away from the football field.  The content is raw, unedited, leaves us open to lawsuits, and will probably land us all in jail.  But it's a risk worth taking so we can learn more about the men behind the mask.

It had been a good week for Amobi Okoye so far.  He'd just returned from Nigeria where he rescued an entire village from certain destruction by an unscrupulous oil company, he found and beat the living dogsnot out of the original Nigerian prince responsible for all those e-mail scams, and raised a lot of money to improve education in Africa, and today was his birthday.  Okoye grabbed the beer in front of him on the bar.  He couldn't believe how much trouble he had to go through to prove he was over 21.  He pressed the beer to his lips and took a long pull off the bottle, leaning far back on his bar stool.

And that's when he heard the glass break on the floor behind him.

Okoye sat back up and looked around behind him to see the shards of glass and a very angry bar patron desperately trying to clean up the clear liquid spreading across the wooden floor of the bar.  It looked like the patron was trying to wring the wiped-up alcohol directly into his mouth, with little success.

The patron stood up and glared intently at a very apologetic Okoye.

"I am so, so sorry about that.  Let me buy you another one, huh?"  He got off the bar stool and hurried to help him clean up the mess.

"Can't.  That was all they had left," the patron said, wiping harder and faster at the floor.

"Oh.  Can I get you something else then?"

"No."

The patron got up and left the bar, his paper towels, the only remaining source of his boozy goodness, clutched tightly in his hands.  Okoye turned to watch the TV over the bar and saw a very concerned looking bartender.

"What's wrong?"

"I've never seen him that upset before.  And he's here for every Texans game."

The following morning, Okoye went out to Rice Stadium to join the player-led workouts being led by Texans quarterback Matt Schaub.  Aside from players, the stadium was virtually empty, no fans in the stands, nobody on the sidelines.  In other words, like any other Rice University football game.

Okoye had taken a brief break from running defensive line drills to get some water.  He pulled off his helmet and drank from a small paper cup, and refilled it and poured it over his head.  As he was about to get back to the impromptu OTAs, Okoye noticed something strange.  He could see in the stands someone standing at the guardrail looking at him.  He stared straight at Okoye, who squinted to get a better look at this uninvited guest.  Okoye took three steps back and knocked over the water barrel when he saw it was that bar patron from last night.  Did he follow me here? Okoye asked himself nervously.  He could see the patron mouthing words to him.  "You owe me some ______"  He couldn't make out the last word.  Rattled, Okoye popped his helmet back on and joined his teammates on the field.

Okoye returned to his sprawling home.  His jaw dropped as he caught sight of his lawn, his pride and joy.  Someone had strategically torched certain spots in the yard.  It spelled out in brown, smoking letters, "I want my booze, Amobi."  Okoye dropped to his knees on the sidewalk in front of his yard.  He couldn't imagine how a spilled drink could have possibly lead to this level of madness. 

It didn't stop there.  Every day for a solid week, Okoye's stalker would find new ways of pestering him.  When Okoye was supposed to give an interview to John "Pancakes" McClain, he had an aide give Okoye a note demanding his drink of choice, Okoye demanded that security around Rice Stadium be doubled to keep out the stalker; midway through practice, the stalker flew above the stadium with a banner demanding alcohol, and if Okoye stayed home, the phone would ring incessantly; with the stalker waiting on the other end.

It got so distressing, Okoye hopped on a plane headed to his family's home in Alabama.  The plane took off without a hitch and there was no sign of Okoye's stalker anywhere.  For the first time in what seemed like forever, Okoye finally felt himself relax.  He took a sip of the free orange juice the flight crew offered and watched the clouds float by.

"Headed for 'Bama?"

Okoye turned to his seatmate, "Yeah."

"Me too.  Going to college.  It's my fourth try.  The name's Bruno."

Okoye reached out to shake Bruno's hand, "Fourth try?"

"Got kicked out of three of them, drinking and gambling.  But my dad keeps insisting that I get a degree."

"Uh huh, yeah."

"He really pisses me off, I think he hates me, frankly.  Wants me to get a degree and find a job, even though my family's loaded."

"Hmmmm, no kidding."

"You either are bored mindless are badly distracted, which is it?"

Okoye shook his head suddenly and lied through his teeth, "Oh, um, I'm having issues with someone.  He's taken too much of an interest in me and it's gettin' kinda scary."

"A partner?"

"What?  No!  Noooooo!!  Someone's stalking me.  I think he may try to kill me if it gets any worse."

"What about the police?"

"They've been useless so far.  That's kind of why I'm heading out to Alabama, get away from him for a few days."

"I see, I think I have a solution for you."

"What's that?" Okoye leaned in.

"I'll take care of your stalker problem if you...you know..."

"No, I don't.  And I'm not sure I want to know." Okoye said uneasily.

"Don't be like that.  If you get rid of my old man, nobody will ever be able to pin it to either of us, nor your stalker.  We'd get away scot free.  What do you say?"

"You're going the wrong way, though.  He's in Houston, not Huntsville."

"I'm only flying out to 'Bama.  I'm catching the next flight back to Houston as soon as I land.  Do we have a deal, friend?"

Okoye wanted to just stop the conversation in its tracks, "Sure, buddy, right."

The plane touched down in Huntsville and Okoye raced to his family home to get settled in.  He spent what seemed like half an hour just getting untangled from the big group hug his family gave him when he arrived.  The family left shortly afterward to the grocery store to put together a feast for Amobi's return.

Then the phone rang.  Okoye didn't want to answer it, since it was certainly not for him, so he let the machine answer instead.

"Amoooooooooooobi...I know you're there.  You can run, but you won't be able to hide...not for long anyway.  That bar still doesn't have the drink I bought.  I'm waiting for you to buy it for me now.  Come on, Amobi.  At least make this fun for me.  I am a huge fan of yours, but that will change really, really quickly if you keep trying to hide from me Amobi.  I'll call back later.  I...I love you."

Okoye deleted the stalker's message just as his family walked in the door.  Dinner was as big a feast as Okoye's family promised, but he couldn't bring himself to eat his usual obscene amount of food.  A couple of days passed and he hadn't heard from his stalker, but he still struggled to sleep at night.  All he could see was his stalker's face every time he closed his eyes.  He was just about asleep when the phone rang again.

This time Okoye picked up the phone, just to keep his family from waking up.

"Hello," he said groggily.

"Now Amobi, why did you have to go and send Bruno my way?  He wanted to get in our way, Amobi."

"Wa-wanted?  You mean he's...?"

"No, I just threw him into Lake Houston.  Whether he survives the snakes and the chemicals is up to him, though.  I must say you are making me very, very angry, Amobi.  I'll see you soon, Amobi.  Love you."

Okoye looked at the caller ID on the phone.  The caller had a Huntsville area code.

He jumped up out of bed and ran out of the house.  In the black of night, Okoye could see a silhouette of a man standing across the street looking at his house.

"Oh, Amobi, you should have just given me what I wanted."

"I don't know what you want, though!"

Okoye bolted from his stalker who doggedly tried pursuing him.  The difference between the two being Okoye was an athlete in top physical condition and his stalker was, to put it nicely, not. 

He ran to the family church just a couple of blocks down the road.  The stalker followed soon after.  Okoye looked around for a place that the stalker would never think to look.  He opened a big thick wooden door and ran up the stairs of the bell tower.  He would look down on occasion to see if the stalker had come into the tower, and would immediately regret it each time.  The stairwell looked like it was thousands of feet down each time instead of the relatively few hundred feet it actually was.  He huddled in the corner of the top floor of the tower, trying to remain silent.  Okoye could hear the creak of the wooden stairs as someone walked up slowly.

The door flung open and the stalker stepped closer to Okoye.  He stood up and geared himself up to fight, despite being the easygoing type.

"Amobi....I.  Want.  My.  Zima.  And.  I.  Want.  It.  Right.  Now."

Okoye raised an eyebrow, "What's that?"

"Wrong answer, Amobi."

"Wait!  I'll buy you a case if you leave me alone!"

The stalker stopped in his tracks.  "You serious?"

"Very serious.  But you have to promise to leave me and my family alone."

The stalker thought about this for a minute, "Okay, done.  I'm tired of trying to find sources of Zima.  Can I ask for one more thing, though?"

"What?"

"Can I get your autograph?  I really am just such a huge fan of yours, Amobi, I have a little Amobi Okoye teddy bear that I hold every night as I sleep.  Really, ask my wife."

"Suuuuuuure, who do I make it out to?"

"To Tim.  Wait!  Could you say 'To Tim, from your bestest buddy, Amobi Okoye?'"

"Fine..."

Okoye finished scribbling on the photo Tim brought with him and Tim walked calmly back down the stairs of the tower.

Okoye sat down, thinking back on the absurd scene that just played out, "All this because of some Zima?"

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