Heading into the 2012 season opener, senior Seyi Adebayo was poised to have the best season of his college career. The big nose tackle, hailing from Glendale, Ariz., had performed spectacularly during the 2011 season, playing in all 10 games, notching 24 tackles (including seven for loss), and recovering two fumbles.
Heading into what should have been his final season as a Lion, Adebayo prepared for a bigger and better performance. He worked hard during the summer to get into better shape.
For most of the first half of the Light Blue 2012 season opener against Marist, Adebayo’s dedication during the offseason clearly paid off. He dominated the Red Foxes’ offensive line, recording a sack, two tackles, and a pass deflection. Coaches and fans alike could tell that Adebayo would play an important role in a tough defensive line that also starred defensive end Josh Martin and linebacker Ryan Murphy.
Toward the end of the second quarter, everything changed. Adebayo suffered a brutal knee injury. His season ended with reconstructive surgery looming ahead.
But Adebayo wasn’t willing to let his injury end his collegiate career. After being declared eligible to play for the Lions in 2013, the lineman worked hard throughout the season, the offseason, and the summer to prepare, again, for his final year at Columbia: his second chance.
Adebayo credited strength and conditioning coach Ryan Cidzik with aiding his recovery.
“I immediately got in his pocket and followed him around, worked out a lot with him,” Adebayo said. “He’s a really deep guy, which helps with the mental aspect of the game, getting that focus just to push through it and get back to where I am and be stronger than I’ve ever been.”
Given that Martin and Murphy—two of the Light Blue’s strongest defensive players—graduated last spring, the Lions are lucky to have Adebayo back for another season.
“Seyi’s really talented, and it softens the blow of losing Martin and Murphy,” head coach Pete Mangurian said.
While Mangurian is energized by the 6-foot-3, 255-pound lineman’s raw talent and brief spurts of monstrous play, he remains cautiously optimistic.
“The truth of the matter is that Seyi played one quarter, had reconstructive surgery on his knee, and he’s coming back. Human nature gets you excited,” Mangurian said. “I see him on the practice field every day and think, ‘I’m glad we don’t have to block that guy on Saturday. I’m glad he’s on our side.’”
Mangurian emphasized that Adebayo shouldn’t get wrapped up in the hype.
“You’ve got to perform for 10 straight weeks. You’ve got to play the way everyone thinks you can play, because right now you’d have a hard time cutting up a film and showing him making a bunch of great plays, because you only have about a quarter and a half to look at,” Mangurian said.
Like all other fans of the Light Blue, Mangurian is excited to see what Adebayo will do on the field.
“I’m patting him on the back, but I’m also telling him, ‘You’ve got to prove it,’” he said.
Adebayo’s attitude reflects Mangurian’s comments.
“I knew I wanted to come back immediately after I heard the news. There was really no way that I was going to just walk away,” Adebayo said. “It was really challenging to get through, but I never doubted for an instant that I was going to come back, as long as I was permitted to by the school.”
This season, the Lions’ team T-shirts read, “Do it now.” After waiting for this moment for nearly two years, Adebayo’s finally ready to get it done.
This article is part of our 2013 Football Season Preview. View the rest of the preview here.