Bond of brotherhood exist between Ayanbadejos
By Dave Joseph
Posted June 18 2003
DAVIE -- They want to play it cool.
They want to remain focused, to keep their emotions in check and not look too far ahead. You see, nothing's been won and there's everything to lose.
"Slowly climb the ladder," says Brendon Ayanbadejo.
"Step by step," echoes brother Obafemi, as if repeating a mantra.
But let a few moments pass inside the Dolphins' locker room, let them talk about what they're trying to accomplish, and even the Brothers Ayanbadejo can't deny what making this team and playing together would mean.
"Sitting just a few feet from his brother's locker, Obafemi admits, "Honestly, on occasion, it's hard not to imagine that possibility, because it would be great."
It would also be fitting since the brothers, signed as free agents over the offseason, are so much alike. Says Brendon, "You couldn't make two different people any more alike."
"We like all the same stuff," he adds. "Same music, same hobbies, same mannerisms. We sit down the same way. We like the same food. We sound alike, we walk alike."
"We finish each other's sentences," Obafemi says. "I'll be calling him to find something out and he'll have already left me a message on my voice mail saying, `Yeah, I've already done that.'"
Surely there have to be differences.
Hobbies? "We both love lifting weights, body surfing and traveling," Brendon says.
Food? "We're both picky eaters," says Obafemi, who shares an apartment with his brother in San Diego and now in South Florida. "There's definitely got to be fruit in the house. Definitely have to have our protein shakes. Definitely got to have a lot of water in the house."
So there's nothing one likes the other doesn't?
"I like onions," Obafemi says. "He doesn't."
OK, the vitals:
Obafemi, 26, is a 6-foot-2, 237-pound running back who started eight games playing three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. One of the Dolphins' final cuts last season, Obafemi's best shot will be on special teams or beating out Deon Dyer for backup fullback.
Brendon, 25, a 6-2, 233-pound linebacker, was an undrafted free agent with the Atlanta Falcons in 1999 before playing NFL Europe in 2001. He was named to the All-CFL defensive team last year with the British Columbia Lions.
Like his brother, his best shot at making this team appears to be special teams.
So what are their chances of playing for the Dolphins and becoming the second family act on this team behind brothers-in-law Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor?
"It's way too early and there's way too many things going to get that far ahead of ourselves," Obafemi says.
"My brother and I are probably two people definitely in limbo right now. Where do we fit it? What's our role? I have no doubt about my ability or my brother's ability. Hopefully we'll carve out our niche while working as hard as we can."
It's something the brothers have always done. Born in Chicago, they moved when Brendon was a week old to Nigeria, where their father, Olatunde, worked for the government and where the family lived for two years. According to their mother, Rita Sanford, her boys were athletic and displayed different personalities.
"As soon as they could walk they were kicking a soccer ball," Sanford said from her home in Aptos, Calif. "Femi always planned ahead. He was a trailblazer. He knew how to think things through and, once he knew what he wanted, he accomplished it. Brendon was more creative and spontaneous. He followed in Femi's footsteps."
Followed him through high school and junior college. Then college -- Obafemi to San Diego State and Brendon to UCLA. Obafemi says that since he was older, "I kind of started things and he was behind me picking things up. I'd eliminate some of the early mistakes he might make by telling him, `Don't do it that way, do it this way.' I guess he was always a little ahead of the curve because of that."
Rarely has either taken criticism from the other the wrong way.
"We try to help each other get better by talking about things or working together on drills," Brendon says.
"We don't compete against each other," Obafemi said. "The only thing we might compete in is if we're playing PlayStation or something. More people get a kick trying to make us compete and wanting to see us fight and get angry with each other; not so much in the real world but in the competitive world.
"But to us it's like if he loses, I lose too. So I'd rather beat up on someone else and him beat up on someone else. That way we both win."
And that's what they want here in summer -- victories that allow each to remain and play on this team through the fall and winter.
"It's a real, real big thing," Brendon says. "I mean two brothers that are professional athletes? That's a big deal. And what are the chances it should be on the same team? It would be pretty special to me and pretty special to him."
And that's why, Obafemi says, it's important to not look too far ahead.
"I have to show what I can bring to this team as a back and special teams player," he said. "Hopefully he will we'll do the same at linebacker."
Rita Sanford recalled the other evening how someone had asked her what she wanted for Mother's Day.
"Nothing," she said. "All I ask is they both make the team."