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NFL Rebels: Adeboyejo's Christmas Surprise

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The waiter began removing the clean plates and silverware from the three empty seats on the white cloth. There was no need for them. The only chair occupied at this four-person table at Sonny Lee's Hunan Taste restaurant in Owings Mills, Maryland, was the one Ravens' wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo sat in.

Here he sat nearly 1,400 miles away from home trying to make a living and a name for himself in the National Football League, left alone on a frigid Christmas Eve with nothing but a few somber thoughts that come naturally with being alone during the holiday season. It had been an adventurous, yet trying rookie season in which he battled a PCL injury that's prevented him from suiting up in a regular season game. Adeboyejo wasn't selected in the NFL draft. He signed as an undrafted free agent this spring.

He made a splash in training camp and regularly stood out in the eyes of the coaching staff. He tried to play through the pain of the injury during preseason games and was not as effective as a result.

"It has been a long year," Adeboyejo said. "It took a toll on me, mentally just not being able to perform."

Life on an NFL practice squad isn't necessarily a glamorous one. It is a group of ten players that practice with the team throughout the week but are not eligible to be active on gameday. They fall under a different salary threshold as well. Practice squad players are required to be paid at least $7,200 per week with most teams trying to stick near that minimum. It is all the physical rigors of playing in the NFL without the thrill of game action.

Out of the corner of his eye a few tables away, Scott Steinberg noticed the server hauling off the plates and Adeboyejo sitting alone. It was a depressing enough sight to call him into action.

"He sits down and I can see there is no one else joining him," Steingberg said. "I'm like gosh, it is Christmas Eve. No one is allowed to eat alone on Christmas Eve. That is just not acceptable."

Steinberg was dining with his wife, his son and his in-laws. He contemplated with them about inviting Adeboyejo to their table. His son Jake was a bit embarrassed at first and thought they might be bothering a man with some headphones in looking for some peace and quiet. That was not the case. Who wants to be alone on Christmas Eve? Steinberg walked over to the party of one and extended an invite.

"He was like 'Oh yes, absolutely. Thank you' and made a beeline to our table," Steinberg said.

He noticed Adeboyejo's Ravens' stitched cap with a number on it. Aside from a Google search to see who this number 16 was, Steinberg knew nothing about Adeboyejo other than he looked like a lonely soul in a new city missing his family.

"I was thinking about my kids and my life," Steinberg said. "Just out of college I moved to a city where I didn't know anyone and had a lot of meals by myself. It really does stink."

The Steinberg family is Jewish. They do not celebrate Christmas in any way. They don't have lights strung outside their home and they don't open gifts under a tree. But they respect and understand the traditions of Christmas and that comes from being around loved ones during the holiday season.

"A holiday is a holiday," Steinberg said. "We wanted him to feel like he had family even though we had just met. We just wanted him to feel like he was one of us in our family."

So here in this Chinese restaurant sat a Jewish family of mostly Penn State graduates with a 22-year-old Texas native that graduated in the heart of SEC Country. They were from different parts of the country with different backgrounds and had known Adeboyejo for all of two minutes. What did they talk about?

College football, of course.

"We believe the Big Ten is the best conference in the country," Steinberg said. "We believe Penn State is the best place to see a game. We are huge college football fans. Oxford and State College are probably very similar in terms of how a Saturday feels in terms of the excitement and the crowds in a small town."

It turns out, they quite a few things in common. Jake is a senior in high school and is a soccer player. He would like to play college soccer. Adeboyejo gave him some encouragement regarding recruiting, noting that he was a late-blooming recruit and was exploring other options until Ole Miss came into the picture towards the end of the process.

"I kind of talked to him about how I was in the same boat," Adeboyejo said. "I was not really recruited at first, but I just put my head down and kept working. I told him that is all he can do - keep working, so when the opportunity does come, you'll be ready for it."

The two also discussed their love of video games like FIFA Soccer. They discovered they can't play against one another because Adeboyejo operates the sticks on a Playstation 4 while Jake is team Xbox.

The Steinberg's peppered Adeboyejo with questions about football and life in the NFL. After they got home, they searched his highlights and realized Adeboyejo was a part of one of the more iconic college football plays of the last couple of years, a 66-yard juggling touchdown catch that bounced off two players in a win over Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

"We went home and my son googled it," Steinberg recalled. "We were like 'Oh my God. He's THAT guy. That is crazy!"

Being regulars at Sonny Lee's, they helped him order and gave him food recommendations around town as they passed around egg rolls. The two parties told stories of their backgrounds and their life paths. Scott is a Philadelphia native and works in finance. His wife Amy is a contractor in cybersecurity for the federal government.

"It was great," Adeboyejo said. "We talked about a lot of different things. We got to know each other. We learned about the type of things we do."

Adeboyejo talked about his family and how they haven't been able to come visit much being so far away and with him being sidelined with an injury for most of the year.

As they got up to go their separate ways at the end of the nearly 90-minute meal, they felt like old friends.

There's a tradition at Sonny Lee's. Towards the front door of the restaurant there's a bowl of uncooked rice. On the way out, a guest grabs a handful of rice and tosses it over their shoulder for good luck. The Steinbergs did so and insisted Quincy follow suit. He didn't think much about it.

The new friends took a couple of photos and went their separate ways. Quincy returned to the grind of being on the practice squad in the NFL.

Two days later, the day after Christmas, Adeboyejo was asleep when his phone buzzed. He recognized number. It was Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. Adeboyejo was about to get a late Christmas present. He was being promoted to the 53-man roster. Adeboyejo is going to suit up for his first official NFL game this Sunday.

"I just had to be patient. I know it's a numbers thing at times," Adeboyejo said. "I got the call. It was a dream come true."

Adeboyejo's newest fans were pretty excited at the news a well.

"We are taking full credit," Steinberg joked, referencing the rice tossing. "We were just thrilled for him. He is just such a nice person and so friendly. We were just really happy for him."

Adeboyejo has certainly had quite an eventful week. It all began with a random act of kindness from a stranger he previously knew nothing about. It was a small offering, but certainly one that lifted Adeboyejo's spirits when being alone during the holiday season can easily dampen them. He realized a dream and made a couple new friends in the process.

"It was a very small gesture," Steinberg said. "It is not like it put us out of our way. The most important thing is we found out how nice of a kid he is. He has a big heart. We met a nice person and whether he plays for the Ravens or not, it doesn't really matter. It was great for us to have that opportunity."

Kiper: Moncrief To The Colts In The Second Round

In his latest three-round "Grade A" draft, ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper slots former Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief to the Indianapolis Colts with a second-round pick (59th overall). A "Grade A" draft is less of a mock draft and more of a look at where players are valued and team needs. Instead of projecting picks, Kiper makes each pick based on who is gone and who is available.

"It's depressing that there's no first-rounder to be had in 2014 for the price of Trent Richardson, but in Moncrief I've added a potential weapon in the passing game and in Bradford I get a productive, high-energy talent at outside linebacker," Kiper wrote. "Moncrief has very good size at 6-2, 221 pounds, and offers plenty of explosiveness, too. He ran 4.40 at the combine and also jumped nearly 40 inches with his vertical. Given the recent injury history of Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks, you really can't take the weapons for granted. Moncrief has a shot to be good."

For ESPN Insider subscribers, here's the link to the full article, "Kiper's 'Grade: A' draft"

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    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

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    Trent browning said:

    Hey I was just wandering if these are the only 2 olemiss players signing. If there are more signing please respond to me ASAP. Also wondering if neil everett will sign any autographs. Thank you very much

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