Photo by Tony Gonzales
You moved to America from Liberia with your family when you were young. Can you talk about the influence your family had on you growing up?
"The biggest influence that my family has had is just having strong women really be my focal point and teaching me how to be a man that never quits, how to endure, how to sacrifice. They taught me the true definition of never quitting and working hard at something, being persistent and sticking with the process or the plan and keeping faith. Because of that, it's really led me to stay where I am and to continue to grow as a person."
Did you have sisters?
"I do, I have an older sister. My older sister is the actually the one I lived with while in North Carolina."
When did you decide you wanted to play football? Did you choose the game, or did the game really choose you?
"I played my junior and senior years and wasn't that good, but was good enough to get a scholarship. I got to college and I really didn't make up my mind that I was going to actually be good or that I could be good until probably about my sophomore year in college. That's when I really believed that I could do it and that's when I really starting putting more into it."
|Photo by Tony Gonzales|
Were you always a natural linebacker, or is that a position you chose?
"When I first starting playing football, I was a tailback, fullback and slot receiver. Then when I got to college, that's when I transitioned over to the defensive side of the ball."
Do you think you would go back to offense if you could do it over?
"No. I'd rather hit than get hit."
You were taken in the third round of the 2013 draft, can you take me through the emotions of that moment?
"Draft Day was a difficult, bittersweet day. I lost my grandmother on Easter Sunday and throughout the draft process, I was dealing with that and travelling, visiting teams, doing workouts. In the midst of all that, I lost my grandmother. My grandmother is the centerpiece to myself as well as my family. Seeing her strength throughout the time where she was in the hospital and just the way that she passed away – she did it how she wanted to…I carry her with me each and every day."
Either on or off the field, what has been the most difficult part of transitioning from college to life as a professional football player?
"College to the pro-life really is almost the same in a sense. It's still the time maintenance. It's growing up and being a professional and understanding that you're an adult that is maybe, when you come out, 23- or 24-years old, but you're expected to be 27-, 28-years-old mentally. You have to approach everything in that mindset. In order to do that, you've got to understand what you can and can't do. You've got to understand your priorities. Once you understand your life and the path that you want your life to go, football becomes easy."
From the moment you stepped on the field, Raider Nation has really taken to you. It also seems to be mutual, as you're always the first one out there getting the crowd hyped up. How do you feed off of their energy and how much does the support of the fans mean to you?
"To me, it feels so real. When I got drafted here, like I said, this is where I was supposed to be drafted. I was supposed to be drafted 66th overall; I was supposed to be drafted in the third round. When I go out there, I feel the authenticity of their energy, of their enthusiasm. I match it, because they're hungry. They're starving for what they rightfully deserve and my entire life has been that same fight. When I see them out there like that, we have the same mentality. It excites me to go out there and play for people like that."
There are so many veterans on this team, but who have you learned from the most in your two years?
"Nick Roach. Nick Roach has been a best friend, a brother, a father figure. He's been a lot to me, man. Tarell Brown, C-Wood [Charles Woodson] – those three guys I can say have been probably some of the most influential and closest-to-me men. Nick has put me in touch with my faith, with God, more than I've ever been in my 24 years of living. He's directed me in a place of calmness and learning how to be a better person each and better day for myself, so that one day when I have a wife and kids and I become a husband, I do it the right way. You can appreciate that, because that has nothing to do with football. It's those things you take with you after football that creates friendships for a lifetime."
Do you have any hidden talents you want Raider Nation to know about?
"You know, one of my things is I want to be a big DJ. I really want to get into DJing at some point. That's like my long lost dream."