Catching Up With Nnamdi Asomugha

Photo: Nnamdi Asomugha played free safety at from 1999 to 2002 before being drafted 31st overall by the Raiders in 2003. He has made three consecutive Pro Bowls for Oakland.
Soummya Datta/File
Nnamdi Asomugha played free safety at from 1999 to 2002 before being drafted 31st overall by the Raiders in 2003. He has made three consecutive Pro Bowls for Oakland.

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Since his breakout eight-interception campaign in 2006, former Cal safety Nnamdi Asomugha has become one of the NFL most feared cornerbacks as a member of the Oakland Raiders. Opposing quarterbacks have targeted him no more than 31 times over each of the past three seasons.

His accomplishments outside of football are notable, as well. Asomugha was recently awarded the "Whizzer" White NFL Man of the Year award for his extensive community service work.

The Daily Cal caught up with Asomugha through an email exchange, where he talked about his life on and off the field.

Ed Yevelev: What has it been like for you to still play here in the Bay Area?

Nnamdi Asomugha: It (has) been an amazing experience being able to stay local and stay in the Bay Area. I had the best four years at Berkeley when I was in school and the fact that I was still able to stay and be around Oakland, San Francisco, and Berkeley is something that makes me feel blessed.

It made my transition into the NFL much easier because I was already familiar with the area so all I had to do was focus on football. A lot of guys aren't so lucky.

There is so much uncertainty surrounding the NFL draft so you never have a good idea where you end up playing. I've been in California most of my life and I knew it would be great to stay.

EY: Before your last year at Cal, the program was going through some tough times. Has that experience helped you deal with the Raiders' struggles at all?

NA: I can never get used to losing because I'm such a competitor. I think once my team gets on the winning track I'll be able to look back at the struggles of previous years and really be able to feel the payoff from the hard work put in during those tough times.

EY: What were some of your best memories while playing for Cal, and while at Berkeley in general?

NA: I remember my first interception at Cal. It my sophomore year and we were playing against UCLA who was ranked pretty high nationally at the time. I remember I got my very first interception and I ran it in for a touchdown.

And I remember how wild the Berkeley crowd went after that because it was such a rivalry that we knew we had to win. We ended up winning that game in overtime and it was the best feelings that at I had with the program.

I have tons of great moments from my time at Cal.

From sneaking into movies at Wheeler Auditorium to the concerts at the Greek Theater. From the last second office hours before the dreaded finals to the bonfires before the big game versus Stanford. Oh, and let's not forget the random daily protests that would occupy Sproul Hall.

EY: How much do you follow the Bears today? Do you keep in touch with any recent or current players?

NA: I try to get out to at least three games each year. Sometimes it's tough because we're playing the very next Sunday and we may have traveled out of town but I definitely keep a close watch and brag about the Bears as much as I possibly can. I am still really good friends with a number of guys that have come through Cal football including Kyle Boller and DeSean Jackson.

EY: You've made television cameos on "Friday Night Lights'' and "The Game.'' How did you get into acting, and is that something you're considering doing later on?

NA: I can't say that I've always wanted to be an actor, but I can say I've always known how to entertain a crowd. I would get in trouble a lot of times in school for disrupting a class because of my sudden urge for wanting to make people laugh.

My teachers would always say, "You're going be on TV one day because you're not afraid of being in the 'moment.''' I did a couple plays and took a couple of classes growing up and that at point I knew it was something I wanted to really do. It's definitely something I want to continue to get better at and continue to do, so be on the lookout.

EY: You've been involved in a numerous philanthropy projects. Did the activist culture of Berkeley influence you at all?

NA: The Asomugha College Tour for Scholars (ACTS) was a program that I started four years ago with the intent of exposing high school students from at-risk, under-served communities to the infinite possibilities that exist outside of their difficult environments.

I've been able to now take the students to colleges in Atlanta, Boston, New York City, and Washington, DC. The sheer joy and excitement that they experience and the belief that anything is possible is probably what is most rewarding about it for me.

I was involved in several community service projects while I was at Cal. It's never too early to start helping out in the community and that was one thing I learned at Berkeley with my work at Stiles Hall and all the service that we did there.


Contact Ed Yevelev at [email protected]

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