Colorado State freshman linebacker Mike Orakpo wants to be just
like his famous older brother.
And, yet, nothing like him.
Given his last name, the comparisons to former University of
Texas standout Brian Orakpo, now a budding star linebacker with the
Washington Redskins, are inevitable.
But Mike Orakpo hopes to be judged on his own merits, gauged on
his own ability. That’s why he went to a different high school than
his older sibling and now attends a different college, in a
different conference, despite some Big 12 interest.
Nothing against the Orakpo name – he cherishes the legacy and is
quite close with his brother – but Mike Orakpo wants to be assessed
not by the name on his back but by his play on the field.
”I’m really not worried about trying to fill his shoes,” Mike
Orakpo said. ”I’m just trying to get into my own shoes.”
His quick first step and playmaking ability remind many of none
other than Brian Orakpo, a first-round pick in the 2009 NFL
It’s hardly a coincidence. Mike Orakpo does study film of his
older sibling, looking for possible moves he can mimic.
And yet, as much as he’s trying to do what his brother did, he’s
trying just as hard to carve out his own identity.
”I am” my own guy, Mike Orakpo said. ”And I feel I will
continue to establish my own name, so people can know my talents
and what I can do as far as being Mike Orakpo.”
His brother respects that, admires it actually. Mike Orakpo has
never wanted anything handed to him, never taken the easy
For that, Brian Orakpo feels like he played an important part.
All those impromptu wrestling matches, where he ”whipped” his
little brother, made Mike Orakpo tougher.
Those video-game contests, where big brother wouldn’t back down,
made him more determined.
Those were simple lessons in life, to be applied to the football
”I never take it easy on him. That’s how he got that
competitive nature,” said Brian Orakpo, a Pro Bowler last season
after an 11-sack rookie campaign. ”He wants to do his own thing,
that’s one thing I respect him for. He wanted to make a name for
himself, and he’s doing well right now.”
Brian Orakpo went to Lamar High School in Houston, becoming a
top-notch defensive end before embarking on a stellar career with
He paved the way for his younger brother to follow a similar
Yet Mike Orakpo flipped the script, attending Westbury High
School in Houston, where he saw time at safety.
”I didn’t want it to be like I was getting things because of
him,” explained the 6-foot-1, 208-pound Mike Orakpo, who’s three
inches shorter and nearly 50 pounds lighter than his brother. ”I
wanted them to take me for being me, what they saw on film, rather
than being someone else’s little brother. That’s why I took a
After a solid prep career, Mike Orakpo was recruited by schools
such as Oklahoma State, Houston and Boise State. But Colorado State
appealed to him, in part because he appreciated the way coach Steve
Fairchild wanted him for his skills, not his lineage.
Now, Mike Orakpo doesn’t want to wait to make his own mark.
Instead of possibly a redshirt season, he’s pushing hard for
playing time. He’s being used in 3-4 packages when the Rams employ
four linebackers. His quickness will come in handy in a conference
where a majority of the teams use a spread offense.
Mike Orakpo also may see action on special teams when Colorado
State opens the season Sept. 4 against Colorado at Invesco Field in
”I’m coming in levelheaded,” said Orakpo, who enrolled at CSU
in January and went through spring drills as a safety before
relocating to linebacker. ”I’m coming in like any other freshman
would – try to make an impact on the team as much as I can.”
He chats with his brother on a regular basis, picking up
pointers and receiving little nuggets of advice just like he always
The best one?
”He told me to play every play like it’s your last,” Mike
Orakpo said. ”You can never go wrong with that.”
As for his last name trailing him, that simply can’t be helped.
He’s approached all the time by people asking him if he’s related
to Brian Orakpo.
Not that he minds. He’s very proud of his brother, the legacy he
But Mike Orakpo is attempting to write his own chapter, in his
own way, of course.
AP Sports Writer Joseph White in Ashburn, Va., contributed.