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Thread: Rams sign Free Saftey
Rams sign Free Saftey
From another board:
Rams sign Louis Ayeni, a UDFA in 2004, Colts camp in 2004
Info on him;
Feature story from The Den, September 13 vs. Miami (Ohio)
Sept. 13, 2003
EVANSTON, Ill. - Former Michigan State head football coach Duffy Daugherty once said, "Football is not a contact sport, it's a collision sport. Dancing is a contact sport." Much like the phrase 'where there is smoke, there is fire' one could make a parallel claim that 'where there is football, there is injury'. If there is one person on the Northwestern roster who knows that, it is Louis Ayeni.
After a stellar high school career at Woodbury High School in Woodbury Minnesota-- one in which Ayeni was named first team all-state at running back by every publication in the state, MVP of the state championship game and a bevy of other accolades-- Ayeni surprised most recruiting analysts by choosing to play at Northwestern. The reason he headed to Evanston: a chance to play running back, and play early.
He was able to do just that. As a true freshman, he rushed for 168 yards the backup to all-Big Ten and current Arizona Cardinal running back Damien Anderson, but started on the special teams and racked up a team-high 295 yards on kickoff returns.
For the most part, Ayeni's goal of being the feature back in the NU offense seemed on track. He was on the field as a freshman, showing off what made him one of the top high school backs in the nation. Most importantly, he was on the field, a place he would not see much of in the next few years.
Heading into spring practice in 2000, Ayeni was still second on the depth chart behind Anderson, but was closing the gap between the two backs with his ability to make defenders miss. However, he was slowed by what he considered merely a 'nagging pain' in his hip. The nagging pain turned out to be a stress fracture in his hip. Ayeni was forced to sit out the first six games of the 2000 season. Unfortunately, though, that was only the first chapter of Ayeni's injury-ridden book.
Despite the six-game absence, head coach Randy Walker could ill-afford to keep such a gifted player off the field much longer and Ayeni found himself standing underneath the opening kickoff in the Alamo Bowl against Nebraska. However, Ayeni did not find himself standing anywhere for very much longer. After being tackled on the 25 yard line by a Nebraska defender, Ayeni attempted to hop up from the Alamo Dome turf like he had done after any other tackle, but something was terribly wrong.
"Being a running back, your first instinct is to get up immediately, but I had a hard time getting up. Honestly, I don't know how I got off the field."
It would the last time Ayeni was on the field for close to 20 months. When it was all said and done, the play had left him with a broken fibula, a chipped tibia, and three torn ligaments in his ankle-it had also left him wondering why.
"After my whole ankle injury, I started to feel like the coaches had just written me off. When you are playing, you kind of notice how coaches treat injured players. And then when I was out that year, I realized that I was one of those players," Ayeni said. "At a point, you really just start wondering why all of this is happening."
Despite suffering an injury severe enough to cause many players to leave the game completely, Ayeni knew that he was blessed with too much talent to simply walk away. The ankle would require a total of four surgeries, totaling over 6 hours of operation, yet he was right back on the field in the spring of 2001.
Almost as though Ayeni was the butt of some sick cosmic joke, he suffered a torn tendon in his pinky while sustaining a block in spring practice that would require two more surgeries. Right around that same time, a guy named Jason Wright started getting the lion's share of work at tailback. Wright has not missed a start at tailback since.
Still hobbled by the ankle injury, in addition to the general wear and tear of college football, the 2002 season was as disappointing as any of Ayeni's life. He started and finished the year as the starting tailback-for the scout team.
Frustrated, disappointed, and on pace to graduate in four years, Ayeni contemplated forfeiting a fifth, redshirt season and simply moving on.
"I really didn't know if I even wanted to continue playing football at that point. I was so sick of getting hurt. I hadn't played football for four years and I kind of felt like everybody thought that I wasn't the same player because I was so injury prone," said Ayeni.
However, Walker and his staff had a feeling that Ayeni's playing days were not quite over yet. Convincing Ayeni of the same feeling was something Walker knew he might have to work hard to do.
"He was pretty disappointed. I knew that Louis was a great football player. I just wanted to reaffirm to him that I still believed in him and what he could do as a football player," Walker said.
Ayeni decided to give it one more shot in spring practice. He was used to turning heads in practice, but playing safety, he began knocking heads. His physical ability and nose for the football propelled him into the starting lineup against Kansas in the 2003 season opener where he graded out second on the team behind fellow fifth-year senior Pat Durr.
Rather than looking to avoid collisions as a running back, Ayeni is now making a name for himself as a bone-crushing tackler whose collisions look more like explosions. His college football journey has landed him in the operating room almost as much as it has taken him to the field-and finally, in his last chance at fulfilling his seemingly endless potential, he will conclude the journey as a team captain.
John Tsarouchas explores how Louis Ayeni’s dreams came true
By John Tsarouchas
There have been five college seasons, three major injuries, three positions, two different head coaches, two teammates' deaths, and now, one opportunity for former Northwestern football player Louis Ayeni.
Ayeni, undrafted, signed a three-year contract with the Indianapolis Colts last month, allowing him to finally put a troubling past behind him and fulfill a life-long dream to play professional football.
"I've seen the worst of this game," said Ayeni, whose unfortunate experiences with football started during his junior year of high school with the death of a teammate. "That was real rough for me. You try to put those sorts of things behind you and keep playing football, but they are always with you."
He kept playing. In Minnesota, at Woodbury High School, he ran straight into state record books. Playing tailback for the Woodbury Royals, he rushed for over 2,000 yards and 36 touchdowns his senior year.
Those numbers drew the attention of major college programs.
"I was recruited by Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin. I ultimately chose Northwestern because of its combination of athletics and academics. I was also told I could play early," Ayeni said.
It was a decision he would second-guess for years to come.
As a freshman he saw sufficient time at playing running back behind current Arizona Cardinal and then All-American Damien Anderson.
His career had started off just as planned. It wasn't until a few months later that things started going wrong.
The winter of his freshman year at Northwestern, Head Coach Gary Barnett left the university for the head coaching job at the University of Colorado.
"When Coach Barnett left I considered . He was the guy who recruited me, so he was the one with the biggest appreciation for my talent," Ayeni said.
But his roommate and current Tennessee Titan running back, Chris Brown, and close friend, Jon Schweighardt, stayed. Ayeni decided to stay and play for new coach Randy Walker.
With his sophomore season came the first major wave of obstacles.
In 2000, Walker asked Ayeni to play receiver—a position he had never played before. Also, after training camp, Brown decided he'd follow Barnett to Colorado.
"The coaches wanted to move me to receiver so they could put me and Damien out on the field at the same time," Ayeni said.
He never got much of a shot to catch passes. A stress fracture in his hip kept him out of the first six games of the season.
He also saw Schweighardt quit the team and rejoin the ‘Cats a day later.
"It got me thinking if all of my friends left, what was I going to do," Ayeni said.
He did the only thing he knew how to; he kept playing football.
He saw limited action as receiver but contributed by returning kicks for the ‘Cats.
It was during the Alamo Bowl that things went terribly wrong.
On a punt return Ayeni was hit and tore three ligaments in his ankle, broke his fibula and chipped his tibia.
Ayeni spent all of the 2001 season recovering from the injuries. He sat out the entire year and was granted a medical red shirt from the NCAA.
If the grueling rehabilitation process wasn't enough, he had to endure the death of another teammate. Just before the season began Rashidi Wheeler collapsed and died at a summer practice. It was another setback for Ayeni.
"The deaths hurt me a lot," said Ayeni. "They make you question what you're doing."
He kept fighting. Feeling healthy again, he returned to the practice field in the spring of 2002. It wasn't long until He was in the training room again. He tore a tendon in his little finger and spent all summer rehabilitating.
"The pinky was probably the most painful injury," he said. However, something would happen in the fall of 2002 that hurt even more.
Now officially labeled injury prone, Ayeni found himself far from seeing and substantial playing time in 2002. He was behind a horde of underclassmen on the depth chart, and it got worse. Mid-way through the season, he was demoted to playing scout team running back.
"I had never played scout team at Northwestern. It was really kind of a slap in the face," Ayeni said.
Teammates knew he was more than a scout time guy.
"He is one of the best athletes I've ever seen," said former teammate Ray Bogenrief.
The 2002 season ended and Ayeni was scheduled to graduate with a degree in communication studies, but he had a year of eligibility left. Still wanting to play football, still wanting to fight, he came back for a fifth season.
Along the way he earned to respect of the entire team.
He started the 2003 season as one of NU's captains and again it was at a different position. He started the season opener in the defensive backfield at safety.
"I was reluctant to play defense, but I'd get to play," he said. "The coaches wanted me to do the hitting, not take it."
At practice Ayeni quickly became known for his vicious hits.
"He's one of the hardest hitting safeties I've ever seen," said NU tackle Rick McDole.
Hitting that hard is dangerous, and Ayeni was sidelined in his last season for eight games with nerve problems in his shoulder.
"All of my injuries were freak accidents," he said.
He must have done some freakish things in the four games he played to get the attention of NFL scouts.
"A lot of teams saw potential," he said. "That's what is beautiful about the NFL; if you have talent they'll find you."
The Colts obviously saw enough in Ayeni's four games to sign him.
However Indianapolis isn't where he thought he'd go. On day two of the draft several teams called him telling him they'd draft him with a late pick.
The Baltimore Ravens appeared to be the team most interested in drafting Ayeni.
"In the seventh round they called and told me I was on the board. I got excited," he said. "I was thinking—me and Ray Lewis—lets go baby."
Most teams would drool over a safety with Ayeni's physical attributes. He stands at 5'11'' 215 pounds, runs a 4.47-40 yard dash, has a 39" vertical leap, can bench press more than 400 pounds and squat more than 500 pounds. The injuries and inexperience ultimately kept the Ravens and other NFL teams away.
Before the draft was even over Ayeni was working on signing with the Colts.
"I'm excited to be in Indianapolis," he said. "I'm a Midwest guy playing in a Midwest-city, with a great team, and a great defensive coach. This is a good fit."
The Colts are scheduled to open training camp later in the summer, and Ayeni still has much to prove. He will have to fight for a roster spot.
Looking back on all he has been through Ayeni said, "I was in a dark tunnel. I was just climbing to the light. When I was almost there, I'd get knocked down again, but eventually, if you keep climbing, you'll get to that light."
Re: Rams sign Free Saftey
Sounds like Bartell in safety form. Any more bodies in the competition for safety is just fine with me. Now we should just get Lance Schulters. :redface: