Change of Scenery Worked Out Perfectly for Ajayi - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Change of Scenery Worked Out Perfectly for Ajayi



    Change of Scenery Worked Out Perfectly for Ajayi
    Change of scenery worked out perfectly for Ajayi

    Jay Ajayi walked off the field at U.S. Bank Stadium while the celebration was still in its prime, shouting "We're the best in the world!" 

    He wore his Super Bowl champions T-shirt stretched over his shoulder pads and around his shoulders he had the Union Jack draped like some sort of British superhero. 

    Eventually, someone handed him a Super Bowl hat and he put that on too. But the Union Jack stayed. That wasn't going anywhere. And as he walked into the press conference room and eventually the locker room, he was telling everyone he saw ... maybe he was just reminding himself. 

    "We're the best in the world!"

    For the 24-year-old who had his character as a football player and as a man questioned when the Dolphins were willing to trade him away during the season for fourth-round pick, notice Ajayi in the minutes after hoisting the Lombardi Trophy wasn't saying he was a world champion. It was "we." 

    When Ajayi got to town in late October, head coach Doug Pederson had a conversation with him, told him the deal. From there, Pederson expected his veterans to keep Ajayi in line. There were never any problems.  

    "I just wanted to have the team embrace me for who I am as a person and who I am as a football player as well," Ajayi said. "The running back room here embraced me. I wanted to challenge them as well. We have a competitive environment in there. We want to see each other succeed, at the same time pushing each other to be the best that we can be and that starts with our running backs coach Duce Staley. I think that showed tonight, all the running backs that played in this game. 

    "Everyone played a part, from LeGarrette (Blount) leading us, Corey (Clement) with all those big plays, even Kenjon (Barner) on his returns giving us great field position. I think our running backs room showcased ourselves very well tonight."

    Even though it looked like down the stretch that Ajayi would eventually become the Eagles' feature back, it never really happened. His role increased but the Eagles kept using the running back by committee approach. 

    In fact, in the Super Bowl, Ajayi carried the ball nine times for 57 yards. Blount had 14 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown. Clement had three for eight, but also caught four passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.  

    Of the three, Ajayi actually had the least impactful Super Bowl. For a guy who once reportedly pouted about a lack of carries after wins in Miami, Ajayi couldn't have cared less on Sunday night. He was just happy to be a champion. 

    "Duce Staley's room, he breeds competitiveness and breeds excellence," Ajayi said. "It showed tonight. The committee, we were the best on the field today."

    "I knew Jay's true intention when he stayed after late at night, trying to pick up the offense the first week he got there," Clement said. "Being able to play against the Broncos and to be able to do what he did. That really shows Jay's character and how he can be for this team for years to come."

    Before he came to Philly this season, Ajayi carried the ball 138 times for 465 yards (3.4), but after the trade, he had 70 carries for 408 yards (5.8) and also became better out of the backfield as a receiver. 

    Ajayi's average of 5.83 yards per attempt is the 11th-best number in Eagles franchise history for a player with at least 70 attempts and the second-best number among running backs. Just Bosh Pritchard (6.02 in 1949) was better. Ajayi's average was actually slightly better than Steve Van Buren's 5.82 in 1945. 

    Ajayi went from a bad situation in Miami to a historic season in Philadelphia capped off by a Super Bowl championship and a parade down Broad Street in his new home. 

    On Sunday night, still in shock from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, he remembered back to the day he was traded. Still draped in the Union Jack, he remembered that it was like any other normal day of work until they called him into the office and told him the shocking news. But like that, his journey to become a Super Bowl champion was underway. 

    "At the time, there was a lot of emotions," Ajayi said, " but looking back at it, I'm so grateful for the opportunity of becoming an Eagle and now being a Super Bowl champion forever."