IU alum Adeyanju tackles computing world

Before the 6-foot-4, 270-pounder was ever jokingly referred to as an “Office Linebacker,” Victor Adeyanju was Indiana football’s foremost technology geek.

The defensive end from Chicago would have teammates grab him after practice, needing a computer fixed. Most of the time, a busted hard drive needed to be reformatted or reinstalled. Sometimes, systems were polluted with viruses and had to be cleaned out.

What started as just a couple of favors turned into a full-fledged hobby as teammates started sharing his phone number with everyday students. Requests for IT support would flood in.

“I was the guy to go to,” Adeyanju said. “Even in the NFL, I was helping some of my coaches, my teammates as well.”

Adeyanju laughs when he’s reminded of his unique traits. It’s not often that hulking defensive linemen speak fluent HTML, but he was the sixth-grader who created his first web site using a Sega Saturn video game system. While he was at IU from 2001-05, he kept up with computers by fixing and tinkering with them.

He took his tech obsession to a new level after a four-year run with the St. Louis Rams defensive line. In 2012, Adeyanju went to work at a call center for Apple Help Desk.

Yes, in the early 2010s people were calling Apple, stumped on how to synch their iPad with their laptop, and the Victor they were speaking with was an ex-NFLer with bad knees but a super brain.

“I was just grateful someone would hire me, and I had an IT job, and for a good brand, a reputable brand,” Adeyanju said. “You can never think ‘I shouldn’t be here,’ or ‘I maybe should be able to jump a couple levels.’ You have to respect the process. You have to start somewhere.”

If winning the Super Bowl is climbing to the top of the football world, Adeyanju has done something similar in the computer realm. After spending time on Apple’s ground floor, he landed a job with Best Western hotels, working his way up from their help desk to database engineering.

Since 2017, he’s been a database engineer for Microsoft.

“I tell my wife, working as a database engineer, it gives me a rush similar to football,” Adeyanju said. “Game’s on the line, the system may be crashing, I have to find a needle in a haystack. I practice, I have all my codes, have my scripts I know work. I make sure I understand the logic of those functions or those internal commands, so when that game is on the line, depending on what anomaly we are seeing, I can think and go in a particular direction.”

He may seem like a walking contradiction to some, but it all makes sense to Adeyanju. He’s just always loved technology, an interest that was nurtured by an after-school program at his elementary school in Chicago. They messed around with video editing and animation programs, which progressed to coding and web development for Adeyanju.

His family moved to the U.S. from Nigeria when he was 7, and they didn’t own a computer. But Adeyanju saved up enough money working summer jobs to buy a Sega Saturn, hooking it up to the World Wide Web.

“My buddy made a small web site and he was like ‘You should do it, too,’ and I was like ‘Holy cow, that’s amazing!’” Adeyanju said. “I just visited a bunch of HTML sites to figure out how to write those particular syntaxes.”

He built a site about the Sonic The Hedgehog game. Then he became a star in another kind of game. Adeyanju grew into a football standout for Curie High and then the Hoosiers, producing 6.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss as a senior. The Rams made Adeyanju a fourth-round pick in the 2006 draft.

Being a physical, run-stopping lineman became Adeyanju’s sole focus. Unfortunately, too much so.

In hindsight, Adeyanju thinks he didn’t spend enough time in the ice bath after games. His knee pads probably weren’t big enough, either. O-linemen’s cut blocks piled up, and when the Rams asked Adeyanju to bulk up closer to 290 pounds and move inside, his knees quickly gave out.

At one point, Adeyanju couldn’t make the trek from his front door to the mailbox. He retired and moved to Phoenix, Ariz., partially because the warmer climate eased his pain. But Adeyanju would still have to jump in his Escalade truck to catch up with his wife and son on a walk to the park.

A walk that was about three blocks.

“She was like ‘Victor, you’re embarrassing me. Why are you driving?’” Adeyanju said. “I was like ‘Honey, I can’t walk!’”

It took six-plus months of rehab, three or four visits per week, to get Adeyanju back to near-normal. A couple of miles walking still swells up his knees. But it’s manageable.

Not only did the NFL pay for his rehab, but they also footed the bill for him to get his master’s degree in 2015.

“A lot of times you don’t hear that. It’s, ‘The NFL just throws them in the garbage can.’ But no, the NFL has done an amazing job,” Adeyanju said. “Honestly, I probably wouldn’t be here working for Microsoft if it wasn’t for the NFL.”

He wouldn’t be there without IU, either.

After he moved to Phoenix, Adeyanju convinced former Hoosier safety Herana-Daze Jones to join him there. Jones ended up hosting a party in his new home, and Adeyanju came. IU football’s preeminent computer genius was having a conversation with someone about his database-engineering work for Best Western when someone else overheard.

An account manager from Microsoft.

“We could use engineers like you at Microsoft,” the man said.

Adeyanju was flattered, but it didn’t fully compute. He was in Phoenix. Microsoft was based in Seattle.

But this kind stranger was telling him he could work remotely. He asked for Adeyanju’s number and his resume.

“I took his number because I wanted a discount on Microsoft products, that’s pretty much about it,” Adeyanju said. “I thought he was going to throw my resume in the garbage can. So I never sent it to him.”

In days, the man Adeyanju met at Jones’ party was following up. He still wanted that resume. And days after he finally sent it, Adeyanju was interviewing for a job.

When he went through orientation in North Carolina, Adeyanju found himself alongside hires that had been applying to Microsoft for a decade.

“Well, I applied, like, three months ago,” Adeyanju recalled saying, with a giggle. “It was weird!”

Adeyanju can’t credit football prestige for his rise. He was nervous at first to even say he was a former athlete, because he worried companies wouldn’t trust their multimillion-dollar databases to an NFL edge-rusher.

But they have, even if his background has been a shock to many colleagues. His coworkers at Best Western liked to compare him to Terry Crews, the star of the “Office Linebacker” commercials. They only required him to watch every Star Wars movie, because their references were constantly flying over his head.

“They were cracking jokes and I just couldn’t pick them up, because I didn’t get to watch all the Star Wars movies, because I was always outside, playing sports,” Adeyanju said. “Now I know every episode.”

He’s just another techie now. But he’s not completely disconnected from the football world. He still has former teammates coming to him for technology help.

One was former Rams rusher Steven Jackson, who needed tutoring on R-Script code for a college course.

“I’m proud of him, because that’s hard stuff,” Adeyanju said. “If you miss a quote, it’s not going to work. It’s that sensitive. ‘Hey, this code you ran, it’s missing a quote.’ Go ahead and run it, it’s going to fail.”

There’s another computer lover in Adeyanju’s home, too. His son, now a fifth-grader, is using C# (C Sharp) to design web sites. He’s a year ahead of dad’s curve.

“You have to start somewhere,” Adeyanju said, thinking back to his first job on the Apple Help Desk. “Hey, I just needed a shot. It’s kind of like football. When you get your shot, you prove yourself.

“Once they saw my work, it was encouraging. He played football — and he’s a great engineer.”

3 comments

  1. I love this story and hope a lot of young Hoosier athletes will read and remember it. No matter how gifted a FB or BB player is, their athletic career will eventually come to an end. When it does, will they be ready for another career and will they be willing to start over at the bottom and work their way up?

    Adeyanju’s story is an inspiration, and we need a lot more stories like this.

  2. Excellent reality of success perspective. This is an individual example of well rounded “know yourself” success story and it’s place in a productive society.

  3. Jon, thanks for this great article as it is good to see players being successful off the field. Adeyanju’s real talent is what he is doing now despite being a very good football player. It is clear as he was growing up his talent was in computer programming and I am glad he never quit helping others that kept the fire burning.

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