I've heard all kinds of stories about what players use to get themselves going for a game. Usually, it entails either music or watching a pieced together highlight reel, dubbed by most as the "psyche-up" tape.
Bani Gbadyu doesn't need psyched up, quite the opposite in fact, so before games, he's listening to something a little more subdued. "Before games, I'm listening to classical, jazz or something that will just get me calmed down," Bani said. "If I don't, I just get too crazy out there on the field."
Crazy can be defined as a lot of things, but Gbadyu's type of crazy is, well…..crazy.
"I'm just going nuts before a game, I have to listen to that music to try and get some sanity back," he said. "If I listen to hip-hop or anything like that, man, you don't even want to be on the other end of one of my hits."
I doubt that anyone would want to be on the other end of his hits, regardless of the music that Bani listens to, because even when he's not quite so possessed of a fanatical state of mind, he's still got only one thing he wants to accomplish from game to game:
"I don't mess around with just hitting someone, I want to hurt them," Bani said. "I'm not out there to be nice to you, because we feel that it's up to the defense to beat that other team by ourselves."
That's the mind-set, but Bani will be the first to admit that as his defense has gotten better over the last couple of years, the offense has as well. With the new coaching staff, now in place for three years, Quince Orchard high school has gone from a team that couldn't win to a team that was 8-3 last year. And, this year, Gbadyu will tell you that anything less than at least a shot at the state title wouldn't do.
Bani may give some credit to the offense, but he'll tell you in the same breath that he'd just as soon the defense got to play the whole game. "Offensive players, they are pretty and all that," he said. "Forget pretty and fancy, because that's not what defense is about. It's about just beating the other guy down."
"I wish they would just let us the play the whole game. Offense might win you some games, but defense is going to win you some titles."
Now, Bani does play offense, something he might reluctantly admit, but he'll quickly add that while he's an offensive player and a running back to boot, there's nothing pretty about what he does. He's not a running back, rather Bani considers himself a linebacker or safety with the ball.
"Go at them, that's all I do," he said. "I'm not doing any of that cutting back and all that fancy stuff. I just get it, and go through the first person I see. I may be on offense, but I'm still going to hit you if you get in my way."
That might not be a bad reason for Bani to be second string at the position instead of first string, his athleticism certainly impressive enough, but while the first-string back is trying to shake would-be tacklers off, Gbadyu is daring any tackler to try and take him down.
You can't fault his aggression, though, as it's one of the reasons that he's up to 18 written offers thus far. Well, that and the formidable presence he makes at safety, Bani standing over 6 foot, 1 inch tall, weighing 210 pounds.
That size, plus his 4.5 speed along with his ferocity made for a lethal package last year, Gbadyu tallying a whopping 15 sacks as a junior, that part of the 75 tackles he had on the season.
He's just getting warmed up.
"Whatever I did, I want to do it better," he said. "And, I don't care about the stats, because it's not about numbers, it's about winning a state title. We have done nothing but get better with this coaching staff, so for us, the next step is taking it all the way."
Gbadyu will eagerly thank this coaching staff for the success of the team, but he won't stop there. Bani will thank them literally for being where he is at today. If not for them, instead of being one of the players in the east, who's popularity is skyrocketing, he might not be a player at all.
"I was always in trouble, always doing stuff I wasn't supposed to be doing," Gbadyu said of his youth before entered the high school level. "The coaches told me that I should go out for football, that I would be good and that kind of environment is what I needed."
"It's like a family and I look at them as my family and there's nothing I won't do for them."
Gbadyu knows a little about
family or at least, what it's like to lose most of those whom you love. Aside
from himself, his brother and father, there is almost nothing left of Bani's
family, many victims to the strife in war-torn
With all his on-the-field angst, off of it, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone more thankful.
"I'm here and that's saying a lot," Bani said. "I can't say thank you enough to the people that helped bring me to where I am at right now. It's a blessing and God gave me that, so that I could live and do what I could do."
"I'm doing that now and before I
got my first offer from
From being ranked 11th
in the state of
"Well, I got offers from Oklahoma, Penn State, Tennessee, Nebraska, Boston College, Clemson and some others, plus I think Virginia Tech is offering me tomorrow." He said. Out of all of them, I don't even have close to a favorite, because I'm probably not even going to take a visit until after my season is over.
Bani might make some unofficial
visits, though, one he said that he knows he will try to make this off-season is
towards the Midwest, off to see
With Bani, you won't see the offers go to his head, thinking that now he's got it made. However, it's not the chance to get more offers that spurns him on to try harder, get bigger, faster and stronger. He'd do that anyway, but the offers are something that he looks at as the reward for everything he's done up to now.
"It's a gift and it is because of my coaches and those people close to me that made this possible for me," he said. "Now, I get an education for free and you can't ask for anything more than that."
That education will more than likely be in the area of child psychology or a major having to do with child abuse. With where he came from and the calamity he lived through as almost a daily existence, you probably don't have to ask the inspiration for why he'd choose that kind of future.
"I want to help people like they helped me and you can do that by helping them early," he said. "When you are young, that's when it's the hardest, so I want to be able to help other kids, because I know what it's like to go through some rough times when you really don't know what's going on."
That will be a major consideration as to where he'll end up in college, but you have to go back to the football side to see just what else matters to him. You know, the usual stuff, i.e., tradition, chance to play early and an environment that feels as much like home as home itself.
Oh, and they better love defense. It's easy to get engrossed with the things Gbadyu has conquered off the field, but for his future, he's looking at who he to conquer on it. And, when he thinks about the collegiate level, hearkens back to watching his favorite player, former Miami Hurricane, Sean Taylor, his mind races, his body starts to shake, because now all he can think about is just when is the next time he's going to be able to lay it on someone.
"I see that guy (Taylor) and that's how you play football," he said. "So athletic and when he hits you, forget about, he's not your friend. That's how I play, just totally to the edge and laying it someone whenever I get the chance. You have to make the offense pay for being out there."
"Man, that's just getting me all pumped just talking about it."
Cue the Mozart