Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer 218d

Johnson Bademosi thankful for opportunities football has given him

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When it comes to those who know New England Patriots cornerback Johnson Bademosi well, safety Jordan Richards offers a unique perspective.

Richards was a freshman at Stanford when Bademosi was a senior. Now they’re teammates again with the Patriots, their old bond coming full circle.

“I remember when I got to school, him and a couple other guys took me under their wings and tried to show me the standard we had there,” said Richards, the third-year Patriots safety. “That was something he was a huge part of, as part of a culture change when him, and his guys, first got there. He passed that down to me -- it’s his preparation, his work ethic. Now being here, and teammates again, it’s the same thing. He’s just so consistent and is going to compete his tail off, preparing for whatever role they ask of him. He’s just a guy you want on your side.”

That showed up in October when the 6-foot, 200-pound Bademosi, who has carved out a niche as one of the NFL’s best special-teams players, was thrust into a starting role at cornerback for three games in place of Stephon Gilmore.

He played well, proving that he provides the Patriots not only a top of the line special-teamer, but a quality option on defense in a pinch.

The 27-year-old Bademosi, who grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, shares his “football journey” with ESPN.com:

When he first started playing football: “The summer before the sixth grade. I was about 10 years old. I had started playing rugby first, and my rugby coaches ended up being my football coaches. I had wanted to play football for a long time but having Nigerian parents, a single mother, she was just focused on me reading my Bible and doing my schoolwork. So I kind of sneaked off and went to football practice without her knowing. It ended up working out.”

Favorite players growing up: “Being from Maryland, playing for the Silver Spring Saints and White Oak Warriors, I was watching Ed Reed [with the Ravens] and Champ Bailey, at the time, was with the Redskins. Charles Woodson. I really loved watching those guys and the way they played the game. I never really had a favorite team. It was the players.”

Role models in his life: “My mother [Margaret], without a doubt. I emulate her work ethic and her passion for things. She’s always worked two jobs. I think I get my work ethic from her. There are also coaches, as sports have carried me throughout my life and brought me places; introducing me to college options and taking me across the world. So I have so much respect for the game, and for my coaches. Dan Soso and Lee Kelly, my rugby coaches who became my football coaches, I learned so much from them. They picked me up from practice when my mother couldn’t drop me off.”

What led him to rugby: “I was in an after-school program and they came by and said, ‘Hey, we’re playing rugby.’ I thought that was fun. Being in an immigrant household, a Nigerian household, I was so focused on doing my schoolwork and reading the Bible, that’s what was preached to me. It was more like ‘don’t be distracted by sports.’ But it ended up being a good thing.”

Top memories at Gonzaga High School: “It’s a lot like BC High -- an all-boys Jesuit school. Some of my best friends are from there, and I had so much fun playing football there, playing rugby, running track. It was an amazing experience. My freshman year, we had to go to a place called Soldiers Home, because we didn’t have a field yet. So we had to drive over there, and just that experience, every day, and playing the rival high school, Georgetown Prep, that was always a lot of fun. And St. John’s. I don’t even remember who won all those games, but just the experience of being with your team, your friends, your classmates, and being a part of rivalries like that was a lot of fun.”

Enrolling at Stanford: “I didn’t know much about Stanford until I visited; all I knew as a kid going to school in Silver Spring, Maryland, was that Chelsea Clinton went there. But some guy named Jim Harbaugh called me my senior year before I was going to practice and he was like, ‘Hey, this is Jim Harbaugh and we’re going to offer you a scholarship.’ After that, some guy named David Shaw came and visited and he talked me through things. I thought I would like it, visited, and committed after 24 hours. I did take five visits, one in Cambridge at Harvard. It came down between those two. It was hard to turn down Stanford, because you’re playing at such a competitive level in the Pac-10 at the time. Just a great overall opportunity.”

Top football memory at Stanford: “Winning the Orange Bowl in Miami, beating Virginia Tech when Tyrod Taylor was playing for them.”

Entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2012 with Cleveland: “I was so happy to get an opportunity to try out and play for them. Things ended up working out. I don’t think many people expected me to make it. Of course, I had high expectations for myself, but [I was an] undrafted kid that people didn’t know too much about. I went in there, competed, showed up every day and honestly was scared every week to get cut, so I was like, ‘Man, I have to go out here and make a play.’ Being undrafted, not being that first pick, I had that mindset all four years there [2012-15].”

Top memory with the Browns: “I remember playing here [Dec. 8, 2013] and thinking, ‘Man, I’m playing against the New England Patriots, against players like Matt Slater, who at the time was everything.’ I was thinking to myself, ‘If I can get to where he is, everything would be great.’ So playing well that day, that was one of my biggest memories.”

Signing with the Lions as a free agent in 2016: “[General manager] Bob Quinn came from here, and he was familiar with me. I could have gone a couple different places, including here, but decided on Detroit and had a fantastic experience there. Bob Quinn, and the opportunity he gave me there, and Coach Caldwell, I have so much respect for those men. They’re doing a great job there.”

Traded to the Patriots in early September of 2017: “It was a surprise. You can’t really predict how things are going to happen in this business. When you get traded away, you start asking questions, like ‘Why is this happening?’ But at the end of the day, you still have an opportunity to play in this league, which is what I want to do. So I was happy about that.”

Describing life as a Patriot: “It’s pretty good [laughing]. We work really, really hard. We’re prepared for every situation. I don’t think this is an easy place to play, but I’m going to continue to work hard and do my job and have fun playing football.”

What he loves about football: “Relationships you get to build, because there are so many wonderful guys in the locker rooms. You also get to run around and show the talents that God has given me; that’s a blessing. And hitting people, tackling people, getting physical; there are a lot of things you can do on the field that you can’t do in life.”

Summing up his football journey: “It’s been a blessing. Football and sports took me out of my neighborhood in Silver Spring, Maryland, and I got to go to other states and countries. In high school, I went to England, Ireland and France to play rugby. And then it took me from Maryland to California, and from California to Cleveland, Ohio, and then to Detroit and now New England. And to Mexico [laughing]. It’s really given me an opportunity to pay this lesson forward to other people who might need this opportunity and to help take care of my family.”

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