Coach & Player Magazine Summer 2017 - Page 32

From Underdog to Super Bowl Champion, Brendon Ayanbadejo Gives Back. Story by Rick Bouch B rendon Ayanbadejo has always been an underdog. After a lengthy career in professional football, the former Baltimore Raven and Super Bowl champion now ensures that the underdog is afforded an opportunity. Since retiring from the National Football League in 2012, Ayanbadejo has spent much of his time giving back. He is heavily involved with Angel City Sports, an organization that serves adaptive athletes. Recently, Ayanbadejo served as coach of a wheelchair basketball team in the Angel City Games, a Paralympics Qualifier. “We were winning most of the game,” said Ayanbadejo, who grew up in Santa Cruz, California “We ended up losing in the end, but here, everyone is a winner.” Ayanbadejo sets a perfect example for adaptive athletes as he overcame numerous obstacles to become a winner himself. Santa Cruz High School had never been a hotbed for football talent until Ayanbadejo, his older brother Devin, and Reggie Stephens passed through the school in the early 1990s. Devin played at San Diego State and enjoyed an NFL career as a fullback that lasted 11 seasons. Stephens starred at Rutgers and played for the New York Giants from 1999 to 2003. 32 www.coachandplayer.com Photo courtesy of @orangetheoryLA It was younger brother Brendon who enjoyed the most success of the three, but it didn’t come easy. After a year in junior college, Ayanbadejo landed at UCLA where he would earn first- team All-Pac 10 honors as a senior linebacker for the Bruins. He was an overlooked professional prospect in 1999. Ayanbadejo did participate in the NFL Combine that year and turned in some pretty impressive numbers. At 6-foot-1-inch and 225 pounds, Ayanbadejo ran an impressive 4.57