Lawrence Okoye has turned his back on winning discus gold at Rio 2016 after signing for the San Francisco 49ers in American National Football League, writes Andrew McSteen.

The 21-year-old, who represented Great Britain at the London 2012 Olympics Games discus final, was not signed by an NFL team after seven rounds of the NFL draft in New York City.

However, the former Croydon Harrier who has never played a competitive game of American football, signed as a free agent for the 49ers on a reported three-year deal.

Okoye said: "I realise it's going to be a ridiculously tough process. I will have to work even harder than everyone else, I have a lot to catch up on.

"I know as much as I can without having played it but I am still an outsider looking in."

49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said: "Lawrence is just an Adonis. Just a great physical specimen of a man. Our creator created a beautiful man."

Okoye is the first ever player to have picked despite not having played one down of the sport but impressed coaches enough at two recent trials to become hot property as they look to mould him into a defensive end.

And he has been given the green light as an exciting prospect by Tony Allen, head coach at London Warriors and former director of player and football development for NFL International and the NFL Europe league.

"He gives coaches the physical stuff, but he’s a very smart lad and that is going to help him," added Allen.

"A lot of the players I used to see in NFL Europe had the ability from an athletics standpoint but their understanding and knowledge of the game, combined with mental errors, was why they were playing in that league and not the NFL.

"With the level of athleticism and money invested in these athletes, if you aren’t smart then there is no place for them on the field."

But despite the excitement surrounding his future, Okoye is unlikely to be involved in first-team action any time soon.

Your Local Guardian: Lawrence Okoye

Better known: Lawrence Okoye reached the London 2012 final of the discus

"Coaches will take a look at Lawrence and his abilities and think ‘is he worth investing in over the next couple of years?’, because he will take that long," added Allen.

"Not many guys who even come through the draft get on to the field straight away, some of them take two years.

"We can all talk about potential, but Lawrence will have to get through days on end with his body banged up and sore, maybe wishing he was at home. And then going to practice in the morning followed by the classroom where he has got to try and stay awake sitting in the dark watching a film and then going back out on the field again and then back in to study film again - it’s going to be tough."