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Q&A with Russell Okung: Beyond the field

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The Broncos have agreed to terms with former Seahawks offensive tackle Russell Okung.

When you arrive at a new team as a veteran, what kind of things do you do that earn you respect as a leader?**
I've always believed in just being an example. I think what I've learned from guys who are older than me, when I was young, [was that] the most valuable thing was work ethic and their professionalism. I try to give that to the guys and if they see that as leadership, that's fine.

For running backs and receivers, there are breakaway runs or catches. For defenders, there are big tackles, sacks, interceptions or fumbles. For offensive linemen, what plays give you the best feeling?

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I would say the best feeling is, to me, them scoring on kickoff return! That's my best feeling as an offensive lineman. It's running in all phases. Honestly, my best feeling is four-minute, when you know you've got to run the ball and they know we're going to run the ball. It's kind of mano y mano.

When you were growing up, were sports big in your life?
No. Honestly, I never really liked sports much until I got older. I've always loved business and kind of wanted to get involved with that, and the next thing I know, I saw there was a cool opportunity to go to college and I was all in.

What did you major in, in college? Was there a focus within that?I was a business major — business-marketing major.

What were your favorite classes?
It was business marketing, hands down. Business marketing, and a little bit of my philosophy class was pretty cool, too. It was pretty general, but we did some religious philosophy, stuff like that. It's a little bit of everything.

It seems it's easy for professional athletes to get pigeonholed as a person. Would you agree?

Yeah, I think there's a certain stigma that goes on with who athletes are and in most cases, that we're incapable of doing anything besides what we do on the field. I think there's a shift of guys really changing that perception and how they look at their off-the-field interests or how they present themselves off the field, as well, and on the field, too.

In that same vein, you're perhaps most well known as a "tech guy." Do you want to move beyond that?
I think we bring a variety of skill sets, one of being a football player, which I think a lot of tech companies see as valuable and a little bit as intrinsic, as well. Honestly, I just want to be known as a well-rounded guy who loves business, loves life and definitely loves playing the game.

How much reading do you do?
I try to read a book a week. It slows down mostly during the season. I mean, I'm reading all the time, whether you're talking publications, magazines. I'm always trying to get a better understanding.

What kind of books do you like to read?
A lot of tech books. Zero to One. Brad Feld — Venture Deals. A lot of tech stuff, but a lot of sci-fi. I'm, like, a complete geek too, so I love sci-fi. Star Wars-type stuff.

What about magazines?
I love GeekWire, TechCrunch, Techmeme, Hacker News. It's crazy, I don't read any sports publications. I love the Economist.

Well, you get a lot of sports here.
Yeah, right, so getting a little change-up isn't too bad for me.

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From childhood to the present, what technologies have made the most impact on you?
I would say probably I always remember my first computer. It was a Windows 95 operating system. I actually took it apart. My mom was so mad at me for that. It was her work computer, too. I've always kind of loved technology and the innovation that kind of comes with it.

When you took that computer apart, were you able to put it back together?
No, not my first time. My first time, I wasn't able to, but the second time I could.

How mad was your mom?
She was livid. You know, because she used it for work. So she couldn't work the next day because she had to figure how to put it back together, but she forgave me. I think at that point, she saw something special, so she really pushed me in that area to get as much understanding as I can. 

What does she do?
Well, she's always challenged me to read. That was one of our biggest things, and to learn — and to try different things, things that a lot of people from my socio-economic status wouldn't do. She's always believed in being well cultured in involving myself with different people from other walks of life.

What did she do for work with the computer?
She used to work for a newspaper. So she'd have to write certain publications or the ads, and all of that. But she's always worked like three jobs so she's been an entrepreneur. She loves design — web design. She's always trying to figure out some cool business.

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