Los Angeles Chargers' Russell Okung Leads the Way

Russell Okung is a Pro Bowl Left Tackle and Super Bowl Champ who’s joined the Chargers relocation to Los Angeles. He’s an NFL rarity, negotiating his own contract, the largest ever given at his on-field position. He’s a defender for the underserved, and protector for the playmaker -- both as an entrepreneur and player!

Question: “How do you define that left tackle position?”

Russell Okung: “Because of the great rushers of the past. They want to get offensive linemen with long arms, quick feet that can stay in front of the blind side of the quarterback, to protect him from things that they don’t necessarily see. And it’s definitely a lot of pressure, there’s a certain trust that goes there, especially with the quarterbacks. They know that you have their back and I take pride in that. You know, I don’t want anybody touching the quarterback.”                                                 

Question: “Being an agent - the theory always can be, I know what’s best for me. Maybe I need to represent myself, but few people would do it. What convinced you?”

Russell Okung: “You know to me it was always about empowerment. I had people who were around me, people that I put a lot of trust in that sort of messed me over. So after that I said, only I can look back over my life and say I was responsible for whom I hired. I was responsible for how I managed my money. So I decided I wanted to do it myself. I understood the business of football. And because I can understand the business of football, I decided it’s the best decision for me. It made the most sense and I think a lot of players are opening their eyes to it as well.”           

Question: “Your key components to the art of the deal?”

Russell Okung: “Everybody wants to win. You know, nobody ever wants to feel like they lost. That was probably one of biggest lessons I learned. You don’t want to be that guy sort of banging fist on table telling somebody what you want. People want to feel like they had enough value on both sides that the deal worked out on both ends. I had an incredible team in place that really supported me and I would not have been able to get the deal done had it not been for those people.”

Question: “The phrase that’s used frequently: ‘it’s not personal, it’s business’ - Do you buy that?”

Russell Okung: “It’s not just business - you’re dealing with people. My family’s affected! I’m affected! You’re affected. You know, your jobs’ on the line!  You’re held accountable to whoever. I really don’t agree with that phrase at all!”       

Question: “How important is it for you to tether yourself to something that gives you your sense of self-worth and affirmation?”

Russell Okung: “I’m not defined by whatever team I play for or whatever status I have. And I ask myself like who do I belong to, what’s my ultimate source and strength and peace and in wisdom? I hold onto that. And I make all my decisions based off of that. My counsel –always go to God and Jesus first before I make any decision. And it definitely navigates me well.”  

Question: “So the re-brand in L-A, first as an entrepreneur, what’s most appealing to you about initiating, enterprising new proposals?”  

Russell Okung: “When I saw the Chargers were making the move, I knew I wanted to be a part of this. I really love Los Angeles! The diversity here!  You have people from all walks of life. And there’s so much zeal for life and passion and creativity and those are the sort of things I wanted to be around. There’s something amazing about the West Coast! As an entrepreneur, as a person who’s very invested in the technology sector, and in business – I think there are incredible opportunities out here, almost to the point that I’ll probably never leave it all.”

Question: “You co-founded the Greater Foundation, providing the underserved an opportunity to go beyond what they normally may be able to achieve by way of mentoring and leadership.”

Russell Okung: “We’ve essentially leveraged a sports platform to work through technology to give people opportunities and access in the technology sector. There’s a – almost inconceivable wealth gap, income disparity with the people in our nation. Just as big as a disparity when it comes to our job force, technology jobs that can’t be fulfilled as industries are growing and morphing into completely different environments. If we can all understand that like inequality is a real issue on multiple fronts, in the leadership, in the workforce, whatever, I think we’ll be better.”  

Question: “What has been the greatest response a young leader has given you?”

Russell Okung: “It’s been amazing to see what can happen when you really nourish somebody and you believe in them. You know, I’ve always asked myself, what does it mean to love your neighbor, right? Like what does that exactly mean? And it means that we have an obligation to one another in every facet of life. In every facet! It starts with being present in somebody’s life. And somebody that may not look like you, may not understand you, but just going out of your way to just be there!”       

Question: “What can the church do to humbly embrace a greater significant role?”  

Russell Okung: “I love the church. And the church is flawed.  I think it’s important that the issues of justice become important to the church. A lot of these churches don’t necessarily take on justice because it affects dollars that come in. We need to start and assess the areas that we’re in and not be so obsessed with becoming this big, huge church where everybody’s pointing at one leader! We all should be pointing at Jesus, right, and if that’s true we got to get to a place where the people become important to us. It kills me! It hurts me! Jesus has set the example. It’s very clear!  I love the church and I want to make sure it continues to thrive because it is our greatest vessel to do the most good in this world.”

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