TAMPA — Texans safety Jahleel Addae is nearly seven full seasons into his NFL career, but he has never played a game in his hometown stadium as a pro. The changes Saturday.
Addae, a former Riverview High standout, grew up a Bucs fan, and he stepped on the Raymond James Stadium playing surface just once, as a 9 year old playing for the Brandon Broncos in a youth league Super Bowl game that pitted different area league champions against each other on an NFL field.
It was a dream come true. And even though he’s a veteran, Addae said returning to Raymond James this weekend will bring back all those memories of being a kid in awe of NFL players.
He has been waiting 20 years for this.
“I remember when I was 9 walking in with my teammates, running up to the lockers and being like, ‘Oh this is Derrick Brooks’ locker, this is Warren Sapp’s locker, Shelton Quarles',” Addae said in a phone interview this week. “We ran up and sat in them and were like, ‘Man, I wish I could meet them.’ It’s crazy that you dream of that when you’re a little kid and it’s coming into sight this weekend.”
Addae, 29, is in his first season with the Texans after playing his first six seasons with the Chargers. He has made a career out of playing with a chip on his shoulder, harking back to his days at Riverview. He posted three 1,000-yard rushing seasons in high school, but wasn’t recruited highly. He blossomed as a safety at Central Michigan, but went undrafted.
"Some people look past you," Addae said. "You get undrafted and I think sometimes it's blessing in disguise because you come in here hungry. You don't come in here like, 'I've made it.' You have that kind of mindset your whole career, that you've got to prove yourself no matter the success you've had in the past, and I think that's what drives me every single day."
Addae started every game at strong safety for the Chargers the past two seasons, but plays a variety of roles with Houston. He is a dime defensive back, the high safety and key asset on special teams.
“Jahleel had done a good job for us,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “He brings a lot. He’s a really good teammate. He always wants to do what’s best for the team, whether it’s personal protector on a punt team or playing certain roles on defense. He’s got good energy every day and he’s been a lot of fun to coach. A great guy to have on the team.”
Addae said he expects to bring around 35 to 40 family members to Raymond James to cheer him on Saturday.
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“It’s going to be special for sure, growing up in Tampa, growing up a Bucs fan, seeing them when they won the Super Bowl when I was a young kid,” he said. “I remember going to two games with my close friend and that was the only time I actually got to be in that stadium in the stands. It’ going be special, a lot of close family, close friends there to support me. It’s going to be a homecoming for me.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieInTheYard.