Who would have thought the NFL would have a Tutu in the league? Seyi Ajirotutu (pronounced Shay-EE Ah-JEER-ah-two-two) proved Sunday that tutus are just not for the ballet anymore as he danced his way down to the end zone for his first NFL 55-yard touchdown in the first quarter of the game against the Houston Texans. That would not be his only touchdown of the game however. About nine and a half minutes into fourth quarter, Ajirotutu received another perfect pass from Rivers for a 28-yard touchdown. In total, he caught four (4) passes for 111 yards, two touchdowns and was awarded the game ball.
So, just who is Seyi Ajirotutu? We know he played with fellow Charger player, Ryan Mathews, at Fresno State University. We know he led the Bulldogs with 49 receptions for a total of 677 yards and seven (7) touchdowns. We know that in 2009, as voted on by the WAC head coaches, Ajirotutu was selected Second Team All-Western Athletic Conference. We know he and Mathews are currently roommates and neither one cooks. We also know that Ajirotutu was signed by the Chargers as an undrafted free agent shortly after the drafts ended this year, only to be cut at the end of training camp and brought back to the practice squad.
Besides the facts that we know about Ajirotutu, what don’t we know? With a growing fan-base increasing each week, since his debut as a Charger on October 24th game against the Patriots, there are a lot of things we do not know about this talented young man.
For starters, he was born and raised in El Dorado Hills, an affluent rural part of the Sacramento Metropolitan Area. He attended Oak Ridge High School with Austin Collie; Wide Receiver for the Indianapolis Colts, who graduated two years before Ajirotutu. Both athletes led the Oak Ridge Trojans, in capturing the D-II California Section Championship in 2003 and 2004 (California had not yet adopted the State Championship at the time). In his Senior year at Oak Ridge, Ajirotutu was selected as the MVP and Player Of The Year for Sacramento Bee All-Metro team, after leading Oak Ridge to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship. He was “the best PLAYER, not just [wide receiver], in the Sacramento area his Senior year,” as his former high school Coach, Mr. Eric Cavaliere, who is currently the head football coach at Oak Ridge High School proudly states.
That’s right, folks. I thought I would dig up someone from his past to enlighten us and to give us a little bit of background, with a personal flair, on this up and coming young wide receiver.
According to Coach Cavaliere, Ajirotutu was an All-League Safety during his Junior year, but did not play much offense. By the time his Senior year came, he grew into a full-time player on offense, defense and kicking game. As a wide receiver, Ajirotutu had a physical mismatch against all opponents. He also had good players around him and they all complimented each other. “Seyi was an excellent team player. Above all, he wanted to WIN games. He made the players around him better, and said the things that were only going to help his teammates. There was a lot of talent on Seyi’s teams his Junior and Senior years, and he was just as happy when a teammate made a play as he was when he made a play,” added Coach Cavaliere on what type of a player Ajirotutu was back in high school.
During the 2003 Championship wherein he coached Ajirotutu, Coach Cavaliere says, “Seyi was beast on defense! I can tell you that as a Safety he could bring it physically, and could cover the entire field, sideline to sideline.” It looks like even when Malcolm Floyd, Legedu Naanee and Vincent Jackson return, now that Ajirotutu is being kept on the active roster, he can still be an asset to the team.
Although he coached Ajirotutu during the 2003 Championship game, he coached against him in 2004 and says that Ajirotutu had an incredible season in 2004. “It was awesome to see him excelling and making such a huge impact throughout the year. When it came time to coach against him, I thought we had a great plan on defense. We were up 7-0 but then Seyi caught a TD pass just before half to tie up the game. One of Seyi’s most dangerous plays was to line up as the inside WR in a 3 WR set, and throw a quick bubble screen to the outside of the field – Seyi was awesome at this play (he had 2 Scholarship players outside of him blocking for him!). We had a good plan to take away this play, but sure enough, in the 3rd quarter they threw that screen to Seyi and our defense jumped on it, then he pulled up and threw a 60 or 70 yard TD pass to the outside WR – a double pass! Oak Ridge went on to win 21-7. It was a great game.” Recalls Coach Cavaliere as if it was yesterday. The way he tells the story made me feel like I was at the game.
In that same year, the play that sticks out to Coach Cavaliere was when Ajirotutu had a deep 70-yard touchdown against Grant Union High School, a powerhouse team in the Sacramento area. “Seyi made them miss and outran their defense all the way to the end zone. I have not seen anyone do this to Grant since then!” Again, I’m feeling Coach Cavaliere’s high energy and enthusiasm when talking about Ajirotutu.
Looking back, I asked him if he had any idea that Ajirotutu would be playing in the NFL and if he saw that kind of potential in Ajirotutu back then – or if Ajirotutu knew his potential himself. “What I do remember with Seyi was talking to him during his [Junior] year, and asking him if he realized how GOOD he could be. At that point, I think Seyi really liked football and worked hard, but I don’t think he realized his potential, and I don’t think he saw himself as a D1 College or possible NFL player in the future. As his confidence grew, he became a dominant player,” he answered. He also added that, “Seyi had a ton of raw talent. We have seen lots of players come through with talent, but Seyi was so coachable and smart that it was easy to see how far he could go. I’m sure his coaches now are seeing the same things in him that we saw back in high school.”
Of course I had to ask what his thoughts were about Ajirotutu as a student and he assured me that, “Seyi was an excellent student. He was very interested in maintaining good grades, and his parents were awesome – they made sure he did well academically! He was very well liked by his peers and his teachers – very humble and polite.” Being humble is a great quality and we all hope even after he makes a “Hall Of Fame” career as a Charger that he remains humble and does not forget his past. Although the more I ‘listened’ to Coach Cavaliere, forgetting his past may not be in Ajirotutu’s future. “Seyi has always made it a point to visit Oak Ridge and see his teachers and coaches… The last time Seyi visited our campus was the day before the NFL draft. He stopped in and visited ALL of his former teachers and coaches, and was very gracious to them all for the time they spent with him here at ORHS.” This is how it should always be. Coach Cavaliere also added that when their high school team goes to Fresno State for team football camp every Summer, “while Seyi was there, he ALWAYS made sure to spend time around our team and coaches, and he always had positive messages to give to our team… This tells you what kind of a kid Seyi is!!”
What a great trip back to memory lane for Coach Cavaliere and I must thank him for taking me along. I could tell he was – still is and always will be – very proud of Ajirotutu’s accomplishments and I know we both believe that Ajirotutu will continue to make great things happen whether it continues to be with the San Diego Super Chargers or with another team.
Oh, before we go, I had to ask if he could say his name flawlessly to which he answered, “I don’t have any problems saying “Seyi Ajirotutu,” but “Seyi” is not his full first name, and I would definitely have a problem with his FULL first name. Also, if I were asked to spell his name in a Spelling Bee, I would definitely struggle.” I had to laugh out loud because I know he is not alone. Wait… Seyi is not his full name…? I think I’ll save that one for the future. Everyone – especially sportscasters – are still having a hard time with this shortened first name.
Okay fans, I hope you enjoyed learning about Seyi Ajirotutu as much as I did and like all of you, I am looking forward to seeing more of him and watch him grow to his full potential.