Editor's note: Each Wednesday we'll bring you a Q&A with a Ravens player to help you learn a little more about the team. Kicking off our new feature is an interview with special teams standout and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo. Ayanbadejo, one of the team's biggest acquisitions during the offseason, was with the Ravens before the 2001 season but was released before training camp. He discusses his return, life as a member of the Canadian Football League and nicknames.
What advice did your brother Obafemi give you about playing for the Ravens?
He just told me that I would love being a Raven. He said the city loves the team and that it was an awesome city. With Coach [John] Harbaugh being a special teams coach and wanting to bring me in to be a Raven, he [Obafemi] said I couldn't go wrong. So, all those factors of football, special teams and the city, he said, "You're going to be happy in Baltimore."
You were cut by the Ravens before the 2001 training camp. Did you have any qualms about returning?
I did and I didn't. Some of the people [from 2001] are still here - like [director of pro personnel] George Kokinis. When I did get here, he said, "You know what you taught me? You taught me never to cut a guy before training camp." I was like, "Well, thanks, even though it was at my expense." If things had worked, I could have been a Raven for the last seven years.
Is it true that you were not heavily recruited before you graduated from Santa Cruz (Calif.) High School?
I wasn't. I started playing football when I was 14. So every year, I was kind of a new player. I was getting better, but I was recruited more for wrestling. It didn't bother me because I knew I had a lot of growing to do as a football player. I just kept working. I knew that eventually I'd just outwork everybody and get to where I needed to be.
You spent two seasons in the Canadian Football League. What was that like?
It was like being paid to play junior-college football. Junior college was fun, but it was definitely not as serious as Division I, and the CFL is definitely not nearly as serious as the NFL. You get paid to do it, and you have fun and travel around Canada and learn about other people and other customs.
What was the biggest adjustment you had to make while living in Canada?
I got there in July, and they don't do the Fourth of July. Of course not, because it's a different country. Still, you're like, "No Independence Day?" And they celebrate Thanksgiving in October. That was pretty wild.
What's the best nickname you've heard? And worst?
I kind of like "Iron-badejo." Someone in Chicago gave it to me because I was always lifting weights. The worst is "I-am-a-pendejo," which means "I am an idiot" in Spanish. All of the Mexican kids I grew up with would say that.
Is it true that you won't eat onions?
No, that's not true. I'll eat onions, especially in tacos and gyros. My least favorite food is seafood. I won't eat any seafood. The way it smells is gross. I don't even remember the last time I had it. Maybe I was a kid.
You're stuck on an island with one CD, one DVD and one book. What are they?
For the book, I'd probably get something crazy like every volume of The Hobbit because that would be a bunch of books. CD-wise, I'd have to go with 2Pac's All Eyez on Me since that's a double CD. And since I haven't seen it yet, I would go with either Heroes or The Wire. I've heard they're both amazing.
Would you rather have a Super Bowl ring or a Hall of Fame bust?
That's a tough, tough question. I'd have to go with the Hall of Fame. If you had a Super Bowl ring, you could have played in the NFL for one year, been on the practice squad and win a Super Bowl ring. Hall of Fame means I was playing in the NFL for a long time at a high, high level.
Who would be your dream date and where would you take her?
Jessica Biel's nice. She's hot. I would take her to the Maldives. Why not? Then I would get a lot of time with her. Then I could turn it into more than just a date.