Over the past decade a number of undrafted free agents have made significant contributions to the success of the Chargers. Antonio Gates, Kris Dielman, Malcom Floyd, Stephen Cooper, Kassim Osgood, Jacques Cesaire and Eric Parker are a few of the names the Chargers’ scouting department signed after going undrafted. Another player making a name for himself is wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu. Having led the team in special teams tackles with 12 last season, Ajirotutu led the team with four tackles this preseason and already has four tackles through the first three games of ’14. MP reporter Art Garcia Jr. caught up with Ajirotutu and asked a few questions about his experience in the NFL and what it is like to battle for a roster spot each year.
AG: This is your fifth year in the NFL as an undrafted free agent; describe what it’s like at the end of training camp when you know your name is on that proverbial ‘bubble’ list of making the team?
SA: Being back-and-forth on the bubble like that is stressful but you have to tune that out and come out here and do your job. Whatever the coaches ask of you, you just go out there and do it and know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and if you put in the hard work you reap what you sow pretty much.
AG: It seems like your name always comes down to the final cuts at the end of training camp. Can you describe what it’s like to have to sit around waiting for the phone call that tells you whether you made the team or not?
SA: It’s stressful not knowing, but you also know the value you bring to the team and what you’ve done during the preseason. You have to be content with that because, obviously, that’s what they evaluate you on – now I’m not going to say I wasn’t a little nervous because I’ve been cut before, but this year I had a good feeling I was going to make the team.
AG: Knowing that, what’s your training regimen like during the offseason?
SA: I’ve been doing training since February and March, pretty much since last season ended. I’ve been doing boxing; running; lifting; doing beach workouts and running stairs here in town. I try to prepare myself to do everything so that when competition is on the line I put my best foot forward.
AG: Do you train by yourself, with other players on the team or with former teammates from college?
SA: I train with Ryan (Mathews) and a couple guys here and there where we train here (at the Chargers facility), but it’s pretty much just me and Ryan where we go various places and workout.
AG: What was your thoughts having caught the game-winning pass at Kansas City last year?
SA: My thoughts were … I just wanted to do whatever I could to help the team win. We were obviously down on that drive everyone was making plays, so when the ball came my way it was my turn step up and make a play. I was just glad to be a part of a win that sparked something special.
AG: You have made quite a name for yourself on special teams, what kind of mindset does it take to excel at covering kicks and punts?
SA: It takes determination; it takes just the willingness to do whatever it takes to make a play. Also, knowing your role on the team and my role is to make plays on special teams and if I get thrown in there as a receiver I have to make plays there as well – so it’s (his role) kind of double-sided.
AG: Former Chargers special teams captain Steve Hendrickson once said if you want to experience covering kicks in the NFL, stand at the edge of the driveway and run full-speed into the garage door about five or six times and then you will know. Is that a pretty accurate description?
SA: That’s funny… That is a couple of guy’s jobs but mine is to go down there and use my hands and my feet and make some plays. It takes an attitude – but when you’re one of the 52 guys in here (the locker room) it doesn’t take much to get motivated to go do it because one play the you mess up on or loaf on, that could be your last play (doing it).
Despite having to make 10 roster moves this past week due to injuries, the Chargers raised their record to 3-1 with a solid 33-14 over the Jacksonville Jaquars. Heading into the game against the Jaguars the Chargers ranked 19th in total offense (334.3 yards per game), 12th in passing (255.0 ypg), 26th in rushing (79.3 ypg) and 13th in points (23.0). The defense ranked 10th in total defense (327.7 ypg), 14th in passing (226.3 ypg), ninth in rushing (101.3 ypg) and fourth in points allowed (16.3). By throwing a touchdown pass against the Jaguars quarterback Philip Rivers set a new team record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass (24).
Wide receiver Keenan Allen set career-highs with receptions (10) and yards (135) in the victory over the Jaguars.