The story of Green Bay Packers linebacker Victor Aiyewa is truly an amazing one.
As a professional athlete, he embodies characteristics we all look for in an exciting player but he also exemplifies an unwavering form of determination given his hardship.
In this story, we follow Aiyewa from his troubled youth, through his challenging years at the University of Washington, to his position as a street free agent, to finally signing with the Green Bay Packers.
I first spoke with Aiyewa back in 2011 before the draft (you can check out the interview here). The Washington Huskies alum was a great person to talk to, and seemed to be a certain draft prospect like his college teammates Mason Foster and Jake Locker.
However, that opportunity never came.
Aiyewa never received that moment where he could witness and hear his name being called during the draft. Consequently, he ended up signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent.
He spent time with the Buccaneers during training camp that season and was later released; he didn’t see the playing field for the 2011 and 2012 season.
With the competitive nature of the NFL when a player has been out of the game for a substantial amount of time like Aiyewa, their career would normally be considered over. This was not the case for this determined player.
Aiyewa is not a stranger to struggle and hardship, but he has an uncanny way of seeing things in a positive light beyond the tough times he faces.
Struggles and hardship began for Aiyewa during his years as a youth.
Aiyewa recounts back to when he was a juvenile delinquent.
“I was in detention centers for months throughout my high school years. I spent years in alternative schools and some months out of school,” Aiyewa recalls. “Ironically enough, these experiences helped mold me into who I am now.”
In addition to those experiences, Aiyewa also learned something else.
“While I was going through that process,” he said, “I realized how the system was beginning to have more control over my life than I did.
“One day I just made a decision of who I was going to be, how I was going to be it and just did it … I never looked back.”
Aiyewa was admitted back into regular schooling in enough time to complete one full year of District 5A high school football in Texas.
As a senior, he helped the Hurricanes to a 9-4 overall record and was named All-District. Aiyewa was also rated as the No. 89 safety recruit in the nation on Scout.com.
Aiyewa excelled and made the most of his final year of high school football; he had his eyes set on receiving a scholarship from a Division I program.
However, at the completion of his senior season, Aiyewa never received that scholarship offer.
“Honestly, the odds were stacked against me. On paper, I was not the ideal player to invest a scholarship in. I had a juvenile record, lacked the grades to be eligible and I only played one full year of high school ball. That sounds like a really bad investment opportunity.”
But miraculously enough, Aiyewa earned a scholarship along with a flurry of other offers coming from the perennial powerhouses of college football.
“I marketed myself. I contacted college scouts and found creative ways of getting my film in their hands,” Aiyewa says. “After that, the film spoke for itself.”
Aiyewa attended the University of Washington and became a key contributor for the Huskies in his first three seasons while playing safety. In his senior year, he finally became a starter as a converted linebacker.
To many, it seemed like a risky move. However, Aiyewa had the skills necessary to prove the doubters wrong.
Aiyewa finished the season with 83 tackles, led the NCAA in tackles for a loss at his position and helped the Huskies win the 2010 Holiday Bowl in what many called a “stunning” victory over Nebraska which capped off his successful collegiate career.
However, the next two years for Aiyewa would lack the luster he was becoming accustomed to.
Aiyewa was not drafted in the 2011 NFL draft and would later go through large feats in order to make his dream of playing in the NFL a reality.
Aiyewa became an undrafted free agent … then a street free agent. Given the competitive nature of the NFL, Aiyewa chances of making a team grew slimmer with every month he did not play.
“My agents abandoned me didn’t believe in me anymore, once my buzz died down,” the 25-year-old said. “I couldn’t find anyone who was willing to represent me.
“At this point, I realized if I really wanted to play on this level, I would have to put the ball in my court and make something happen…”
It seemed far-fetched, but Aiyewa did make something happen.
He became an NFL agent. His first client? Himself.
Aiyewa indispensably did something not many players, if any, could do by being their own agent and convincing teams that he was the player they’ve been looking for.
He worked extensively and did his research on what he would do to pitch to these teams.
“I used notes from my college courses on sales and marketing, personal selling and business-to-business sales with Jack Rhodes from The Foster School of Business in order to give myself the best chance,” Aiyewa said.
Aiyewa knew what he was doing when it came to these billion-dollar franchises. He recalls creating a map of all 32 NFL teams in their respective cities, as he sought out to travel to any of the teams he possibly could.
“Whatever I could do to once again get my film in their hands,” he said.
That, my friends, is hustle. He was tenacious. He was doing things that almost have never been witnessed.
The dream wasn’t reached yet, but Aiyewa still kept at it. Heck, he probably could have even became a sports agent if he wanted to by now. It was truly remarkable in what he was executing.
“I worked day and night on my sales pitch, how to effectively engage and communicate and show my passion and the value I could add to a team,” Aiyewa recalls.
He wasn’t going to take a break or pause at anything until a team came calling. He had that factor in him.
“I was desperate. I was so close with every conversation I had with NFL personnel.”
Eventually, the hard work paid off for Aiyewa.
On October of 2013, he signed with the Green Bay Packers.
“It was more than a dream come true,” Aiyewa said.
Aiyewa played as a key member on special teams, even being awarded with the game ball in Green Bay’s epic 22-21 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 8, 2013.
He’s the true example for any athlete out there to never give up on your dream.
Aiyewa was against all odds … from high school, to college and the pros. Quite precisely, he dealt with almost everything.
And he still came out on top.
From juvenile delinquent and an unknown high school football prospect, to Washington standout, a street free agent, Aiyewa got through all of that and is an NFL linebacker.
It’s quite the prodigious story, and anyone with remotely similar struggles can follow this man by example. He’s the true source of inspiration, but not for only football but everything else in between.
There are not many you can say that embody these characteristics and procure these levels.
Now, you can know at least one.
He’s Victor Aiyewa.