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For Adeyanju, family ranks first and foremost
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sunday, Oct. 01 2006
Victor Adeyanju has some clear-cut goals for his rookie season with the Rams.
They have nothing to do with tackles, sacks or individual plaudits.
Rather, Adeyanju wants to:
—Persuade his cab-driving father to retire.
—See his mother finally begin a career.
—Move his family out of its tough neighborhood on the south side of Chicago.
The Rams traded Brandon Manumaleuna, their starting tight end, to San Diego on
the first day of the 2006 draft to acquire the fourth-round pick in which they
grabbed Adeyanju, a defensive end from Indiana University.
"We were able to get a player that we really wanted," coach Scott Linehan said.
"We felt that if he was there on the second day, it was like getting a
So far, the play of the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Adeyanju (pronounced
aw-DAY-awn-joo) is supporting that assessment. He earned the No. 3 defensive
end job, then got his first start last week, after Anthony Hargrove skipped two
Adeyanju, 23, had seven tackles; only strong safety Corey Chavous (nine) and
linebacker Will Witherspoon (eight) collected more in a 16-14 win at Arizona.
"Vic was making plays the whole preseason; now, seeing it in a (regular-season)
game is real big," defensive end Leonard Little said. "He's the type of young
player that he already has the tools, and he pretty much knows what to do."
Adeyanju always has been a fast learner. He didn't start playing football until
high school, and that was only because his brother told him he might not make
the basketball team. "I made both teams," Adeyanju said.
College recruiters were lining up -- until, that is, he broke his leg during
his senior season at Currie High. "A lot of schools backed off," he said.
"Indiana stuck with me, so I really appreciate and respect them for that."
The well-sculpted Adeyanju, who Indiana coach Terry Hoeppner quipped
intimidated the Hoosiers' foes merely by stepping off the bus, started 43 of 46
games. He piled up 151 tackles, including 13˝ sacks.
The Rams helped Adeyanju take a major step toward achieving his goals by
signing him to a four-year, $1,406,000 contract that included a $329,000
Three decades ago, Joseph Adeyanju "read in a novel that to the people in
America, thousands of dollars is nothing to them ... that everything that
glitters is gold. I said, 'I want to go there, I want to see it.'"
He and his wife, Deborah, had been teachers in their native Nigeria. In
Chicago, though, the only job Joseph could find was behind the wheel of a cab.
When Victor and his siblings -- brothers Charles, now 29; Richard, 27; Michael,
20; James, 13; and sister Josephine, 25 -- were growing up, Joseph worked
100-hour weeks. Deborah stayed at home with the kids.
At first, home was a tiny efficiency apartment in an area with "bad people,
loose dogs and shootings," Victor said.
"It definitely was tough times," he recalled. "But our parents instilled in us
... (that) as long as you're with your family, there will always be a brighter
While Deborah shielded the children from the neighborhood dangers, Joseph faced
constant peril on the job. "Having a gun pointed at his head, getting robbed a
couple of times," Victor said. "But he's very street smart, so he's able to
Money was tight. "Sometimes at Christmas we wouldn't get any presents," Victor
said. "But I'll tell you one thing: We never went hungry, we always had a roof
over our heads, and we always had that family bond."
Victor was 3 when the kids were sent to live with their grandmother in Nigeria.
They returned four years later. "Being away from my parents, that was very
tough. That's about all I remember" about Africa he said.
Back home, the children were disciplined strictly. "You have to let them know
right from wrong," Joseph said. "I told them, 'I want you to do better than I
All five of the grown children have earned college diplomas. Deborah recently
completed her degree in sociology and is looking for a way to apply it. "She
put back her career for all of us, raising us," Victor said. "Not a lot of
people would do that; we respect that and honor that."
And Joseph has cut back to part-time driving. "Two or three days a week," he
Joseph, Deborah and James still live on South Maplewood Avenue, in the same
rugged neighborhood. Although a modest ranch house has replaced the cramped
efficiency, Victor is urging them to move to a safer area.
"My family helped me a lot in life," he said. "I'm trying to pay them back."