By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun
8:00 AM EDT, May 16, 2013
Cut by the Ravens in early April, linebacker and special teams standout Brendon Ayanbadejo still hasn’t ruled out playing in the NFL during the 2013 season. He works out daily and keeps himself ready in case a team calls and the situation is right.
But right now, the 36-year-old is far too busy with other endeavors to be consumed with whether his 10-year NFL career is over.
“There’s not anything that I have to do right now so If the football angle has exhausted itself because there’s no more options in football, then that will come to a close on its own and then there will be a point where I have to announce my retirement. But right now, I’m not feeling like I have to do that,” Ayanbadejo said Wednesday during a phone interview with the Baltimore Sun.
“I’m not going to sit around and wait for football. There’s too much life to be lived and too many things to experience that I haven’t been able to experience being a professional athlete the last 14 years,” he added. “I’ll be ready if a team calls but if they don’t, I’ll be a busy guy and I can go out saying that my last game that I’ve ever played in was the Super Bowl and I won a championship alongside Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata and all these amazing guys that will go down forever in Baltimore history together.”
Since helping the Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII in early February, Ayanbadejo has continued to be a leading advocate for marriage equality and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. His activism has been honored by various organizations and groups. He’s made several television appearances and he’s been serving as a guest columnist for foxsports.com, writing on social issues.
“From now through July, I’m going to sleep in my own bed, maybe for five nights,” said Ayanbadejo who played for the Ravens for the past five seasons. “I’m going to be in eight different cities, speaking at Fortune 500 companies like Johnson & Johnson and Proctor and Gamble. I’ll be going to San Francisco Pride and Los Angeles, getting awards through them. I’ll be speaking at the University of Delaware. I have so many things lined up and it‘s so fun and fascinating. It’s a new experience that I’m really excited for.”
This week, Ayanbadejo, who has made the Pro Bowl three times as a special teams ace, is taking part in the first-ever NFL Sports Journalism & Communications Boot Camp, held at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. It is one of 10 training programs for post-NFL careers that NFL Player Engagement is offering current and former players.
Ayanbadejo is among 23 players, a group that includes former Ravens Ovie Mughelli and Ken Hamlin, and former Aberdeen High and University of Maryland standout Erin Henderson, at the four-day boot camp which exposes attendees to different aspects of the journalism industry.
The program’s focus is on improving player’s writing skills and providing training in radio and digital media. During the camp, the player’s attended classes and workshops taught by media professionals and applied what they learned during a field trip to a Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens’ baseball game.
“It’s interesting being on the other side and looking at what [reporters] have to go through,” Ayanbadejo said. “I’m used to giving interviews but not actually conducting an interview and being knowledgeable on whatever the topic is and your subject, and formulating good questions. The second you ask a question, the person being interviewed knows exactly how competent you are. It’s a lot more difficult than I thought it was going to be.”
Ayanbadejo said he does have some interest in following in the footsteps of the many former players turned NFL broadcasters, commentators or analysts, but that’s just one of the things that he’d like to do.
“I enjoy it but that’s where there’s kind of a problem. There are many things that I enjoy and there’s a plethora of things that I love to do but I feel like in order to monetize something, you have to be a
professional at one thing and you have to do one thing really, really well,” Ayanbadejo said.
“At some point, I might have to pick something if I want to earn a decent living. I’m going to have to pick one thing rather than being this jack of all trades that loves and enjoys engaging in all these different things, whether it is philanthropic work or doing charity stuff, political space, being an athletic director, finishing my MBA, doing this whole media thing. At some point, I’m going to have to pick but for now, I’m enjoying all these different ways I get to express myself and learn about life and people.”
One subject Ayanbadejo will continue to be involved in is the fight for marriage equality. Late last month, NBA player Jason Collins came out as the first openly gay male athlete playing in one of the four major American sports leagues. Ayanbadejo applauded Collins' decision to come out.
"Professional athletes who are at the top, we have the loudest voice that resonates and it goes down the chain to colleges and high schools and to kids even younger that know they are different than everybody
else but they’re exactly the same as everytbody else and they should be treated the same as everybody else," he said. "They shouldn’t be treated different. It’s going to do so much for the LGBT community. The timing was right and let’s see how far we can take it as far as gaining rights nationally for everybody. We still have a ways to go but we're headed in the right direction and we're finally going at a fast pace."
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