CHICAGO — Six months after his last NFL game as a hulking defensive lineman, Victor Adeyanju started his new career — on the Apple help desk.
"I decided to take the lowest-form job to pay respect for the process and learn from the bottom up," said Adeyanju, a former Gage Park resident and football star at Curie High School and Indiana University before playing four-plus years with the St. Louis Rams and Cincinnati Bengals.
It may seem bizarre for a 6-foot-4, 275-pound professional quarterback hunter who had 97 tackles and three sacks in his NFL days to enter the tech world, but it was a natural transition for Adeyanju.
Justin Breen says Adeyanju has worked his way up the IT world:
He has been a self-described "computer geek" his whole life. Adeyanju designed his first website on a Sega Saturn video game system as a sixth-grader at Nightingale Elementary School. For an advanced video-editing class at Nightingale, Adeyanju videotaped interviews for the 1996 Democratic National Convention at the United Center. At Indiana, computer science classes were his favorite.
While he suited up for the Rams from 2006-2009, several of the team's players would call him for help repairing their computers, and many of them still contact him today. Adeyanju became A+ certified during the 2011 NFL lockout. He said during parties with friends and family, he'd bring PL/SQL programming books to study.
"I have an obsession with computers, and the only way to feed my hunger was to get a job in the IT world," Adeyanju, now 31, said.
So after knee injuries ended his career in 2011, Adeyanju moved to Phoenix, where he had been rehabilitating and "learning how to walk again," and pondered the next chapter in his journey.
"Retiring and sitting at home for six months trying to figure out what I was going to do, I felt like a loser," Adeyanju said. "I felt like something was missing."
That void was filled with the Apple gig, despite Adeyanju's salary dropping from six-figure NFL yearly compensation to a nearly minimum wage post taking phone calls.
"I was losing money driving there, but it wasn't about the money for me," Adeyanju said. "I was able to get my Apple iOS certification there, and that's what helped me get my next job."
That position was as an IT technician at Best Western Hotel's corporate office in Phoenix. He started working there on April 9, 2012, and has been promoted twice since — to high-speed Internet support, and currently to IT database analyst.
In his current role, Adeyanju is responsible for making sure codes in databases stay "consistent, available and follow to Best Western standards," he said. Co-workers jokingly call him the "Office Linebacker," a nod to the Reebok commercials created by Rawson Thurber showing fictional employee Terry Tate running over co-workers who aren't abiding by proper office etiquette.
"The biggest thing, when I go to work, I don't remember I played football," Adeyanju said. "My focus is making sure the database stays consistent. That's what I eat and breathe."
Adeyanju, who also has spent more than two years taking classes for a master's degree in information systems management with a concentration in database administration from DeVry University's Keller School of Management, said his work ethic comes from his parents, Joseph and Deborah.
His family came to Chicago from Nigeria when Adeyanju was 7 years old. His father has driven a cab since, while his mother stayed at home to raise Adeyanju and his five siblings, including James Adeyanju, a redshirt junior defensive end at Wisconsin.
"He's a very determined son," Joseph Adeyanju said of Victor, who's scheduled to graduate March 1. "He saw us working hard every day to put food on the table. He's going to work hard to make sure he betters his life."
Said James Adeyanju: "I'm really proud of my brother, how he is successful in every aspect of his life, from the football field and now in the business world."
The master's degree will allow Adeyanju to potentially earn future promotions at Best Western or seek a different path. He's content with either option, noting he wants his second career to benefit his family — wife Tranatta; son Jeremy, 5; and daughter Laila, 8 months — as much as his NFL one did.
Adeyanju still works out and maintains his NFL-sized body, but he said his large frame is the only thing that distinguishes him from his fellow "geeks."
"I do miss winning, and I do miss the games, but that's about it," he said. "It's been a crazy, fun road, but it's been really rewarding. I really enjoy what I do now. This is my team now. They need me."
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