The building might have a fresh set of paint, and there are some more televisions hanging on the walls at 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway than in 2015, but Benson Mayowa felt a sense of familiarity when he walked back into the Oakland Raiders facility Tuesday morning.
The former Idaho Vandal played two seasons (2014-15) with the Silver and Black before eventually signing with the Dallas Cowboys, and then most recently the Arizona Cardinals, but throughout his NFL travels, he kept an affinity for his stop in Northern California.
"Last year I was a free agent, and Oakland was one of the teams that was looking at me, and then when I saw that I was kind of happy because this is where I really played," said Mayowa. "I spent a year in Seattle but I didn't play. I had the most fun playing here. I wanted to come back last year, it didn't work, but it worked out this time and I'm happy to be back."
There were myriad reasons for Mayowa's return to the Raiders, but rather unsurprisingly towards the top of that list was the presence of defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.
"I think he [Guenther] is a straight-up guy," Mayowa said. "I think he's just a straight-up guy. That was my first impression."
That first impression came recently, when Mayowa received a call from the Raiders defensive coordinator, one where Guenther succinctly, and honestly expressed his desire for the rangy defensive end to re-join the Silver and Black for a second go round.
"I feel like when somebody wants you like that – he didn't have to tell me that," Mayowa said. "He could have beat around the bush a little bit, but he was straight ahead, and that's how I feel like I am."
During his career – which now enters Year 7 – Mayowa has tallied just 13 sacks, but coming off a season last year in Arizona where his four sacks would have been tied for the team-high with the Raiders, the Inglewood, Calif., native believes he can not only produce on Sundays, but help along the young defensive ends already on the roster, albeit it in his own way.
"I'm not a ra-ra guy; one thing I can say I do well is lead by example," Mayowa explained. "I'm going to want to beat them. They're young, I'm going to want to beat them… Last year in Arizona, I was on the field more than I've been in my career, but I was still sharing time, that's what you have to do sometimes. Here, I feel like it'll be a better opportunity for me to be out there and add to the sack total, help this defense get to the quarterback more, and with that, I feel like that will make the younger guys hungry. When you see one guy eating, you're going to want to eat. It's just natural. That's just being a football player and being competitive. That's how I'll probably help them and help the team."
Mayowa will turn 28 during training camp this year, and now entering his seventh NFL campaign, not only is he a different player than he was during his first tour as a Raider, he's a different person.
"I'm just more mature," he said. "The game slowed down, a lot. When you're young, playing NFL football, it's much, much faster. It's much, more mental. You can be the fastest, you can jump the highest, but if you don't know where the plays are going, if you don't know your positioning, or how to react to certain things, then that kind of makes you. I feel like me maturing in the game, and me studying the game, and being a student, and just putting in years… [I'm] definitely more mature."
While Mayowa is looking forward to learning from Paul Guenther and leading by example on the field, off the field, he's also admittedly excited about another aspect about his return to the Silver and Black.
Once again, having the support of Raider Nation.
"Even when I was here, I wasn't making crazy plays, crazy sacks, but they know you," Mayowa said when discussing the team's fan base. "They know who's on the team, and this is one of the teams where they know…. You don't have to be the biggest player, but it's just real. Real love out here in the Black Hole."
Head out to Raiders HQ in Alameda, Calif. for the team's first offseason workout of the 2019 season.