NFL's Romeo Okwara Emerging As A Powerful Storyteller

By Ronda Racha Penrice | November 8, 2021

Detroit Lions star defensive player Romeo Okwara delivers memorable moments on the field, sacking quarterbacks as prominent as Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins. He also does it off the field through photography. While making a name for himself on the gridiron at Notre Dame, one of college football’s most hallowed programs, the Nigerian-born Okwara, who went to high school in Charlotte, N.C., first started dabbling in photography.


During his first NFL job with the New York Giants, however, he began getting deeper into the craft. “I started thinking of it more as an art form and just trying to use the camera to tell stories.”

In these times, those stories have become more personal. And while Okwara has captured several images while road-tripping during the pandemic, his experiences in the Motor City, especially as an NFL player, have figured more prominently. “Most of my work in Detroit is centered around my teammates because I spend a vast amount of my time in our training facility and especially the last year, after going through COVID, I kind of made it a point to bring my camera into building more,” he shares over Zoom.


As a result, he snapped his team as they collectively grappled with our nation’s racial reckoning. “One of the pictures,” he explains, “was from last year during a lot of the protests that were going on. One day we came to work, and it was a day where we chose to take a stand [against] one of the incidents that happened in the country.”

“I was able to capture some of those moments where we spray-painted some words on the whiteboard in the locker room. That was like a crazy intense moment, and I had my camera on me, and I was able to capture this moment [that] otherwise [would have been] a word-of-mouth thing. It was like a visual reference for this moment,” he shares.


A couple of years prior to COVID, Okwara (whose younger brother Julian also plays for the Lions) visited his native Nigeria for the first time in 15 years. The image of his grandmother’s kitchen is just one of the many he plans to capture once he can travel there again. “That was such an amazing experience,” he says. “Going forward I’m trying to document [that] and tell the story of that side of me.”


Okwara is well aware that his unique perspective feeds his work. “That’s kind of what makes you ‘you,’” he explains. “I think we all have our perspectives. Some people are just able to capture that in a certain type of way that. . . is beautiful.”