British running back Jay Ajayi made his long-awaited debut for the Miami Dolphins last week, carrying 5 times for an impressive 41 yards in a 33-17 defeat to the Buffalo Bills.
The return to the field was long-awaited for Ajayi, who was born and raised in London before his family moved to America in 2000. He had been placed on injured reserve/designated for return since the start of the season with a rib injury. Ajayi admitted this week:
“They were the hardest eight weeks of my life. You kind of get all the things that they were saying from the NFL Draft and just throughout camp I couldn’t really show what I can do because I was on IR. A lot of those things were just kind of eating at me a little bit during that time I was out. It was motivating me to come back strong.”
Ahead of the Bills game last Sunday, television pictures showed interim head coach Dan Campbell delivering an emotional pep talk to Ajayi. So what was Campbell telling the young British star? Ajayi revealed:
“It was my first career game and he understood there might be some jitters there for me. He came to me and told me, ‘Just do what you do. You’ve had a great week of practice. We’re going to need you to be a spark for us on offense when you come into the game. Just go out there and play your game. We believe in you and we trust in you.’”
Miami head to Philadelphia on Sunday with a 3-5 record and in the knowledge that they cannot afford too many more slips if they are to remain in the AFC playoff race. But Ajayi feels there is a positive vibe in the Miami locker room and a disappointing start to the season can be overturned. Ajayi concluded:
“We absolutely believe we can turn things around and that starts with our head coach. Coach Campbell is not going to let us quit on the season. There is no way we’re going to give up now. We’re just going to attack each game with a 1-0 mentality.”