The following cities all have something in common: London, Frisco, Boise, Miami, and Philadelphia. They have all played a significant role in the football journey of Jay Ajayi, one of the NFL’s finest young talents. Despite his many stops along the way, Ajayi seems to have found himself a more permanent home in Philadelphia. With a Super Bowl ring on his finger and a starting spot with his name on it, this young back from London, England is primed to take the league by storm in 2018.
Ajayi might not only be the most well-travelled player in the NFL, but he has also has been apart of some interesting decisions and actions (by others and himself) where you almost feel like his career has a hint of destiny to it.
Coming out of Frisco Liberty High School in Texas in 2011, Ajayi was ranked as a respectable 3-star prospect by Rivals.com. In his senior season for the Redhawks, he rushed for a video game-like 35 touchdowns and well over 2,000 yards, despite the team only playing 13 games. That production led to accepting a scholarship offer to play for the Boise State Broncos, and his first year in Idaho played a crucial role in the shaping of the young Englishman.
As a young freshman in 2011, Ajayi was considering redshirting as to save a year of eligibility. Unfortunately, that decision was ultimately made for him, as he was arrested for shoplifting a pair of sweatpants from a local Walmart. According to Ajayi, head coach Chris Petersen nearly kicked him out of the program entirely, before settling on a few consequences that would allow him to keep his scholarship. “He sat me down, talked to my parents, and basically said they’d give me one more chance and that I had a really thin rope and that I needed to win everyone’s trust back,” said Ajayi of his interaction with Petersen following the incident. Luckily for Petersen, Boise State fans and eventually Eagles fans, Jay Ajayi made the most of his second chance. He capped off his storybook-style Boise State career with a 3-touchdown performance in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl against Arizona, a game which saw the Broncos win and officially stamp themselves as the real powerhouse of the Group of 5 schools. That year Ajayi also rushed for over 100 yards in ten games and over 200 yards twice, adding to another 200-yard performance the year prior to become the only Bronco with three 200-yard plus games in their history. Despite not being particularly high on any draft boards, Ajayi decided to forgo his senior season and declare for the 2015 NFL draft. He was selected in the fifth round by the Miami Dolphins, but in another unfortunate event he broke his ribs in the final preseason game, delaying his NFL debut till mid-November of that season. The 2016 season finally brought some good fortune to Ajayi, where he was named the starter after the Dolphins lost star running back Lamar Miller to free agency. Ajayi made the most of his opportunity, finishing the year as a Pro-Bowler for the AFC and finding himself in the NFL’s top 100 list for the following season, as voted on by his fellow players.
The 2017 season might have provided the weirdest twist of Ajayi’s football career, when he was randomly and surprisingly traded to the Eagles in the middle of the season. Dolphins head coach Adam Gase and Ajayi had their issues, once causing Ajayi to be suspended the year prior. Ajayi seemed to have grown up a bit, but the Dolphins felt that his attitude might have had negative effects on the locker room, despite his production. Nevertheless , he was shipped to a locker room in Philadelphia full of talent and one with Super Bowl aspirations. Ajayi went from being the new guy to being a vital part of Philadelphia’s talented and balanced offense. He wasn’t putting up the kinds of numbers he was putting up in Miami, but he played a major role in an offense that desperately needed balance to help the maturation of Carson Wentz and to eventually take pressure off backup Nick Foles when Wentz went down late in the season. Ajayi and the Eagles went on to win the Super Bowl, bringing the city it’s first NFL championship that led to weeks of celebration in the City of Brotherly Love.
In 2018, Ajayi is being looked to as more of an every down back, getting help from shifty veteran Darren Sproles and the young and talented Corey Clement. In the first game of 2018, Ajayi made himself known on national television with a two touchdown performance against the Atlanta Falcons. Ajayi accounted for his team’s only touchdowns, and also added a 2-point conversion late in the fourth quarter.
Jay Ajayi has a had a very interesting and roller-coaster-like career, and from his college days to his first few pro seasons he seems to finally have matured into an NFL talent both on and off the field. From his near dismissal at Boise State to his unexpected trade to Philadelphia last year, Ajayi seems to have finally found himself a home in a place that loves him. To say that a few decisions have greatly affected his career is an understatement, and there is no doubt that his arrival and success for the Eagles has destiny written all over it. The young man from London has made himself a household name in the North American sports circuit, and he looks to be a major part of the Eagles quest to repeat as Super Bowl champs this season.