Published: October 26, 2012 at 04:36 p.m.
A Day in the Life of Akbar Gbajabiamila
Julia Garrison | NFL.com & NFL Network
Johnny Vy | NFL.com
Akbar Gbajabiamila is a former NFL linebacker who played for the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins. He now works as an NFL.com analyst for 'NFL Fantasy Live,' which airs online and on NFL Network. A veteran of the game but just breaking into his television career, Akbar must learn a new craft but he has the skills, drive and NFL connections to make a new impact in the world of football. Follow Akbar Gbajabiamila on Twitter @Akbar_Gbaja
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You make that sound easy.”
Akbar starts work before the sun comes up. As an NFL Network analyst, he puts in the same kind of extra hours he did as an NFL linebacker to learn the craft of being on stage, a very different set of skills. Practice begins with a voice lesson at 5:15 a.m., warming up his vocals with exercises led by his acting and speech coach Susan Rumor, and performing tongue twisters and rhymes on his living room couch before breakfast.
Akbar warms up his vocals with voice coach Susan Rumor.
Elijah turns down Akbar's offer to share his breakfast smoothie
This is the best protein powder ever. Most protein powder tastes like poison.”
Akbar’s role quickly changes from student to man of the house, and it's time to make breakfast for his still sleeping family. Everything pulled from the cabinet has been bought in bulk, from a 5-pound box of oatmeal to a 2-dozen carton of eggs, to a gallon bag of frozen blueberries and the largest canister of cinnamon sold in stores. When feeding a family of six, (one of whom is 6-foot-6 and weighs 260), shopping at Costco is required.
Although it's a meal of eggs and oatmeal for Elijah and Saheedat, his two eldest kids, Gbajabiamila makes himself a smoothie from the fruits and vegetables he has on hand. Today, it's a mixture of cucumber, blueberries, whey protein, and an entire apple he puts through a large juicer before tossing in the blender. Elijah passes on the offer to share Akbar's purple concoction, not quite trusting its various ingredients.
I can sing the Wow Wow Wubbzy song too.”
While drinking his homemade smoothie and simultaneously answering 15 questions from his 3 1/2-year-old daughter Saheedat who has come down to eat her breakfast, Akbar uses his 'free' 10 minutes to review any important game footage from Sunday with the NFL Game Rewind app on his tablet.
At 6:30 a.m., it's time to kiss the kids and remind them to 'listen and learn' at school before heading out the door, gathering two suits and multiple pairs of dress shoes on the way. It's now 6:42 a.m. and we are just beginning what promises to be a jam-packed day.
Akbar watches NFL Game Rewind at the breakfast table alongside daughter Saheedat and dog Simba during breakfast.
Gotta look pretty!”
Gbajabiamila is clearly a veteran L.A. driver and we are soon rolling into the NFL offices in Culver City, California, just in time for his 7 a.m. makeup appointment. There is not a wasted moment, as he strides into the locker room to change out of his sweats and sandals and into his suit and tie.
While getting his makeup done, Akbar is prepped by the show's producer, reviews his set list and notes, and shares fantasy stats and breaking news with the other 'NFL Fantasy Live' talent Jason Smith, Michael Fabiano, Adam Rank and Elliot Harrison before heading to the stage to begin taping the show.
Akbar Gbajabiamila gets dressed in the wardrobe room at the NFL Network studios
An artist applies makeup to Akbar in the makeup room at the NFL Network studios
When it’s time to get on air and the lights are on…I come alive”
It's all talent on deck to begin taping by 8 a.m. Utilizing multiple stages, the talent each have different segments to record, including 'That Helps No One' which is in the opening segment and will be Akbar's first appearance.
After that, he is on and off set for different blocks of the show, and any minute he's not on stage he's grabbing a snack and reviewing fantasy stats, Twitter, and NFL games on his iPad, not wanting to miss a new stat or piece of breaking news that could be relevant to the show.
Akbar debates with the Fantasy Live team on what advice to give fantasy owners this week
Early is on time and on time is late”
The team decides what will be discussed on air and the fantasy experts make their picks to advise fans which players to start and sit on their fantasy teams, give hints on who fans should drop and pick up from the waiver wire, and predict which players they think will put up the most points on fantasy rosters across the country. Analysis is backed by knowledge of matchups, injury reports, and season performances so far.
About 40% of the time I have the chance to squeeze in lunch with my wife and the twins.”
With all the numbers and names flying around during that hour, it's no wonder Gbajabiamila is excited when it's time to head out and meet his wife and 11-month-old twins Naomi and Nasir for lunch.
We meet Akbar's wife Chrystal on the patio of a restaurant called Akasha in downtown Culver City, and it's a production of a different kind for the NFLer who juggles the twins, one-handedly holding one in the crook of his arm and putting both into position at the table, one on each side of mom and dad.
Lunch is a healthy salad with chicken and shrimp for Akbar and throughout the meal his face lights up as he takes a timeout from talking football and instead tells the story of how he and Chrystal met, the TV shows they watch (he admits to liking 'Cupcake Wars' and DIY Network), and how the two make a great team balancing his gregarious and extroverted qualities with her more subdued and laid-back personality.
Akbar and his wife Chrystal pose for a photograph with their 11-month-old twins Naomi and Nasir during lunch in downtown Culver City.
Akbar, his wife Chrystal, and twins Nasir and Naomi make their way through downtown Culver City for lunch.
I’ve been rotating 4 suits and I’m just out of combinations.”
As we head from lunch to Akbar's next appointment, he calls up good friend Ramses Barden (a wide receiver for the New York Giants) to congratulate him on New York's win over the 49ers that week and catch up on what's new in the league. When Akbar forms relationships, he takes them seriously and likes to reconnect with friends often to stay in touch.
Akbar’s loyalty becomes particularly apparent as we show up to his suit fitting and learn that Woody, his tailor, is the same man who fitted Akbar for his very first custom suit when he was starting out in the NFL. Akbar explains that he owns 10 suits (a lot in his opinion), but only wears four as the others are no longer in style. It's time to update his collection and Woody is there to help, agreeing that the four-button jacket is no longer the best choice for a man appearing on television four times a week.
Woody takes Akbar’s measurements to order him a few new suits.
What do you really think?”
Following the fitting, we're back in the car on our way to the NFL offices, which means it's time for another phone call, this time to Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who is actually on his way to Los Angeles to spend his bye week. Akbar talks to him about last week's game and they make plans to catch up while Nnamdi is in town. Once back at the office, it's a quick turnaround to leave by 5 p.m. for Hollywood, where Gbajabiamila is on the list for an exclusive viewing party for 'Monday Night Football' at Xen Lounge.
It’s a tight squeeze in the NFL Network’s parking lot as Akbar heads back to the office.
Babe I gotta break down film.”
Akbar arrives fashionably late and midway through the first quarter of the Chargers-Broncos game. After a long drive through L.A. traffic, he pulls up at Xen Lounge next to two Rolls Royces and a Maybach (no big deal) and hands his keys off to the valet. Heading into the party, he shakes hands with the owner, Duane Martin, and spends time saying hello to a number of NBA players. Akbar also spends time with the hosts of the party, David and Dana Pump, who founded the Harold Pump Foundation, and are raising money tonight for the awareness and treatment of cancer.
Akbar finally meets up with fellow 'Fantasy Live' host Elliot Harrison to watch the game and analyze the players from a fantasy perspective. They have a few drinks and appetizers, with Akbar ordering plain pineapple juice and 'saving his calories for the mac-n-cheese cupcakes and red velvet bread pudding' at the table. He mingles, saying hello to acquaintances there, and is introduced to actor Will Smith for the first time, which he admits was a bit of a 'star-struck' moment.
However, once the game starts to get interesting, with the Broncos coming back to win after being down 24-0, Akbar makes everyone start to really pay attention. He gets animated predicting upcoming plays and watching the team whose jersey he wore not too long ago throw away an almost certain win.
Akbar and Elliot analyze the Chargers vs. Broncos game at the Xen Lounge MNF party.
When the game ends, Akbar doesn't waste time saying his goodbyes and heading home. It's been a long day and after a game like tonight's contest he has quite a bit to review before 5 a.m. tomorrow when he will be out of bed and back on set to recap the highlights.
The party isn’t over, but Akbar heads home to review film and spend time with his family.