Three-time Pro Bowl linebacker and Super Bowl winner Brendon Ayanbadejo joined Warren Sapp and Brian Jones for a special Veterans Day edition of the BetUS Unfiltered podcast this week and shared his insights from a 10-year NFL career that was anything but a sure thing.
“I didn’t get a scholarship out of high school, I wasn’t the best player on my high school football team, had to go to JUCO, spent a couple of years at JUCO,” Ayanbadejo recalled of his path to UCLA, where he was a star at linebacker in the ’90s. “Then I was an All-Pac 10 linebacker, still didn’t get drafted out of college, then I had to go to Canada, played in the CFL, played in NFL Europe, been around the block back to the CFL, a little stint in the XFL.
“And then finally the first team I played with after I’d been cut three times from the league was the Dolphins, and it kind of took off from there,” Ayanbadejo said. “It was the route less traveled and a route where some people never get to see success. I’ve always been an underdog, so that’s all I know, hard work.”
After two seasons in Miami, Ayanbadejo’s journey then took him to Chicago, and he appeared in Super Bowl Odds XLI with the Bears following the end of the 2006 season. It was back in the Windy City, Ayanbadejo says, that he truly found his stride as a player.
“It was like The Matrix,” Ayanbadejo said. “The game was so slow. I could see people trying to hit me, I could see people coming after me, where runners were going to go, where the holes were before he was going to go there. I saw the map, I saw the blueprint and that’s what I did … but every day I showed up like I was going to lose my job. And I think that’s the difference. I never got comfortable.”
Ayanbadejo spoke about his relationship with Hall of Famer linebacker Ray Lewis after he signed with the Ravens in 2008.
“People don’t understand what Ray is really like,” Ayanbadejo recalled. “When he’s on the field, in the locker room, that’s a different beast. When he’s off the field and away, he’s super chill and relaxed. But you know how Ray is, he expects everybody to do their job and expects everyone to be a professional.”
Ayanbadejo also reflected on his ability to use the NFL as a platform to speak up for LBGTQ rights, a passion that he says was actually inspired by his own parents’ marriage.
“The catalyst was just being a biracial kid that grew up in Chicago,” Ayanbadejo said. “My dad’s NIgerian and my mom is Irish-American, so I knew it wasn’t right for (anyone) to tell us who you can and cannot love.
“This country has always told us who you can and cannot love at certain points in time, so when Obama had the opportunity to speak up for LGBTQ rights when he was running against McCain and he didn’t — he straddled the fence, strategically he’s a politician that’s what he had to do. the country wasn’t quite ready for it yet just like the NFL with Colin Kaepernick in 2016. When I had the opportunity to speak up about LBGTQ rights in 2009, I took advantage and started speaking up about it, and eventually, we helped get laws changed in the state of Maryland and in the United States,” Ayanbadejo said.
When the topic returned to the playing field, Sapp, Jones, and Ayanbadejo dove into the NFL’s new playoff format for 2020 and whether it gives an advantage to No. 1 seeds.
“I love it,” Sapp said. “As a 2-seed, that kind of stinks that I don’t get that bye like I did when I went to the Super Bowl, but that’s why you fight for that No. 1 seed because it puts you in the driver’s seat. Now you’ve got somebody coming to your house that’s a little bit tired, and you’re the only one that ain’t played. And boy, that’s a beautiful thing.”
“When I was in Miami we went 10-6 and we were the first team to go 10-6 and not make the playoffs, and the Patriots went like 11-5 one year and didn’t make the playoffs, so you’re going to avoid that,” Ayanbadejo added. “But one thing I don’t like is there’s going to be a team (from) the NFC East — what are they going to do, go 6-10 and make the playoffs?”
The guys also had choice words for a couple of teams currently in playoff position in Tampa Bay and Seattle — each losers in Week 9.
“I don’t even watch that defense,” Ayanbadejo said of the Seahawks, who fell to 6-2 with a 44-34 loss to Buffalo on Sunday. “As soon as the defense goes on the field I change the channel. I watch Russell Wilson do his thing and (DK) Metcalf do his thing, then I change it as soon as the defense comes on.
“I know they got Carlos Dunlap and he’s the best defensive lineman,” Ayanbadejo continued, “but you’ve gotta have the right personnel no matter what. You’ve gotta have the right people and it just doesn’t look like they have any talent on that side. They’ve got a couple of talented guys, but where’s everybody else?”
As for Tampa?
“In all my years playing against Tom Brady, even though he’s known as one of the most prolific quarterbacks, it’s all built on the run game and the offensive line doing what they need to do,” Ayanbadejo said of the Bucs’ 38-3 loss to New Orleans. “Tom can’t move anywhere, so the second you make Tom get off the spot, he’s an obsolete quarterback.”
Still, the crew expected a bounce-back from both teams this weekend, as the Bucs visit the Panthers and the Seahawks visit the Rams (Rams -1.5, O/U 55.5) in the BetUS game of the week.
“I think it’s going to be a high-flying game,” Ayanbadejo said of the matchup. “We’re really just going to be looking at the offenses of both teams. I think you are going to see some sacks, but the sacks aren’t going to make a difference unless they come on third down.”
“Take the over, baby,” Sapp added. “Ain’t no defense in this ballgame.”
To hear more from the BetUS Unfiltered crew, including a breakdown of the NBA Draft and 99 seconds from Warren on the benefits of wearing a mask, check out the whole episode below.
“Every time I go into Publix — Lord have mercy, I don’t know what you old people are watching,” Sapp said. “Turn your damn Fox News off, turn OAN off, or whatever you’re watching. Because they are lying to you. This virus is out there, it’s deadly and we are on a hell of a climb.”
The entire show is below for your enjoyment:
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