UCLA outside linebacker Akeem Ayers was at the NFL Network studios Friday to film a segment for “Path to the Draft.” We took some time to get to know him.
I know you majored in history. Who is your favorite historical figure?
AA: Got to go with Martin Luther King Jr. He was a great teacher and just a great person in general.
What is it you admire most about him?
AA: Preaching non-violence. He wanted to make the world a better place and especially was pivotal in helping blacks come up at that time. He was willing to put himself out there in bad situations to make it better for the future. I’ve got such an appreciation for that.
If you look back on the ’60s as a pivotal time in our country’s history, what do you take from that turbulent decade?
AA: It was a rough time, but well worth it for the people who made the sacrifice during that time. They worked to get us past that rough period of time.
Now, you grew up here in Los Angeles, in Watts, which is well-known for being at the heart of a big event in our history, the 1992 L.A. riots. Do you hear stories from family about that time?
AA: I was, like, 3 years old, if that, so I don’t really remember much. But my mom, my dad, my grandmother, they tell me a lot of stories of things that went on. My great grandma, she’s in her 80s, so she tells me a lot about the things she’s seen. I learn a lot from her.
You were pretty young, but as a little boy do you remember anything?
AA: My mom did a good job of keeping me safe, and I really can’t recall back then.
This love of history, where does it come from?
AA: I don’t know. I just always loved watching the History Channel and stuff like that. I could come home from school and just watch it all day. It just interested me. I don’t know where I got it from.
So, speaking philosophically now, how do you treat the past while moving forward? Do you learn from it as it pertains to playing football?
AA: I kind of lived my life by that growing up. I saw a lot of people taking the wrong routes, coming up as a kid, just doing the wrong things. I learned from there and have carried it throughout my life as I’m about to enter the NFL. You see guys getting in trouble, but you also see the good in people. It’s just a matter of always learning.
You’re a basketball guy, too. Big Lakers fan?
AA: Oh, yeah, of course. You’ve got to be a Lakers fan growing up in L.A. with all these championships.
What’s your prediction for them with the playoffs about to begin? Three-peat?
AA: I’m taking the Lakers all the way. It’ll be tough. The East is strong; West is strong as always. With Andrew Bynum being hurt, that could make it more difficult. But whether they have him or not, I still think they can do it. Chances would be better with him, though.
How come no love for the Clippers? Nobody in L.A. ever seems to show them love.
AA: Lakers just been taking care of business for a long time now. It’s easy to love them.
Don’t you want to root for the underdog?
AA: Don’t get me wrong, they’re an L.A. team, and I want them to do well, but it’s all about the Lakers.
You know, some people might equate UCLA football to the Clippers and USC to the Lakers. Does it anger you to hear that?
AA: No, no. You can’t do that. There are times when UCLA football has won eight in a row, then USC has gone on a little streak. You can’t compare us like that. No way. Not at all.
Having lived the USC-UCLA rivalry, how intense is it?
AA: It’s intense in every sport. No matter what, USC vs. UCLA is crazy. Especially when it comes down to football and basketball, it’s just nuts. It was a great thing to be part of.