Ogbo Okoronkwo still had a hospital bracelet on his wrist following Sunday's hard-fought win over the Steelers. Less than 24 hours early, Okoronkwo had announced that he was a father to his first child, a baby boy named Indigo.
Yet, as he traveled back to Cleveland for Sunday's AFC North division rivalry game against the Steelers, he wanted to keep his son close throughout the game. Along with the hospital bracelet, Okoronkwo also brought the blanket that his son was first swaddled in after his birth.
"That's where my powers came from today," he said. "I told myself, and that's why I kept the hospital band on too, I was like I'm going to dedicate this game to him."
Okoronkwo landed back in Cleveland at around 5 a.m. Sunday morning. Hours later, he was on the field playing an important role in the Browns defensive success against the Steelers.
As a unit, they knew Sunday's game would require a high level of physicality, as well as limiting the Steelers run game and attacking QB Kenny Pickett. They had to find ways to create takeaways against a team that was tied for second in the league in giveaways this season entering Week 11.
Okoronkwo had this matchup against Pittsburgh circled on his schedule. He wanted to help the Browns get a win over the Steelers.
"So of course, I'm gonna be there to see my son be born, but I definitely didn't want to miss the game either. So, I was happy I got to do both," he said.
In the second quarter, Okoronkwo came around the edge and beat OT Broderick Jones to sack QB Kenny Pickett for a loss of 11 yards on third down, forcing the Steelers to punt. As he stood up following the play, Okoronkwo rocked his arms back and forth like he was rocking a baby. Okoronkwo said he planned for that celebration if he had a big defensive stop or sack in the game.
Okoronkwo also had plays in the fourth quarter that played a critical role in the Browns defense getting necessary stops. With 5:03 left in the game, RB Najee Harris took a handoff on second down, but Okoronkwo tackled Harris for a loss of five yards on the play. Okoronkwo also had back-to-back plays where he got his hands in Pickett's face and Pickett had to throw the ball away.
Okoronkwo finished the game with one sack, five total tackles, four tackles for a loss and one QB hit.
As he sat at his locker following the Browns 13-10 win over the Steelers, Okoronkwo still hadn't processed all that occurred for him over the weekend and the emotions involved. A Browns win. A new stage in life in fatherhood.
He went through a roller coaster of emotions in a short span of time, but the smile on his face said it all.
"Not even close," he said. "It went from being extremely nervous, to extremely happy to just overwhelmed with happiness, tears and snot in my nose. Anxious to get back to the game, to us running around just going crazy. This defense is so connected, we're having so much fun on the field. Now that we've won, we're about to go just have fun together and then I'll be on the first thing back to my son tomorrow."