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From Shutdown Corner to Broadway Breakout: Nnamdi Asomugha Makes Broadway Debut

A former gridiron great swaps his helmet and pads for a stage as Nnamdi Asomugha takes his Broadway bow in the Roundabout’s production of “A Soldier’s Play”

Nnamdi Asomugha by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY 2.0

From Shutdown Corner to Broadway Breakout: Nnamdi Asomugha Makes Broadway Debut

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

One of the first pieces from this website that I ever encountered was this analytical take on Tom Brady and his potential ability to perform in a certain hit Broadway show. I started hounding Justin to take me on as a contributor after reading it. I loved the idea of not only talking about sports, but also tying in one of my other passions – the arts. After all, most of the staff here at The Turf are fellow sports nuts who work in and love the arts.

Well – when I walked into the American Airlines Theater last week to catch a preview performance of Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of “A Soldier’s Play” by Charles Fuller, under the direction of Kenny Leon, I knew I’d found my next article.

After I sat down and opened the Playbill, one name stuck out to me. That name? Nnamdi Asomugha.

You see – when I first encountered Mr. Asomugha, THIS was the setting:

My love of football came from one of my great uncles, who used to be a coach in the NFL. Initially, I was a Raiders fan (thanks Howie Long.) I would go on to cheer for whatever team my great uncle was working for at the time – so I’ve rooted for a handful of teams throughout the league over the years. Ultimately he retired and I found the team that now has my heart – the New York Football Giants.

Naturally, I followed the NFC East more closely than other divisions. Because of that, I didn’t really pay much attention to what was going on in the secondary out in Oakland. But on a fateful day in 2011, fans of all the teams in that division were introduced to Mr. Asomugha when he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. Thankfully for my Giants, he only spent two years in the city of Brotherly Love. But over the course of his 11-year career, he garnered numerous awards. Three-times he was named to the Pro Bowl and twice he was voted as a First Team All-Pro (4 times in all). He was a mainstay on many “best of” lists (including USA Today’s All-Decade Team in the 2000s) and is regarded as one of the best Oakland Raiders players of all time – someone opposing quarterbacks were hesitant to target. But I digress…

Trading A Uniform for… A Uniform

Mr. Asomugha retired from the NFL in December of 2013, signing a one day contract with the Oakland Raiders – the team that drafted him and where he established his reputation as one of the premier corners in the league. Towards the end of his playing career, he had started acting. His first professional acting job was on the small screen in 2008. Eventually, he tackled the big screen as well. It’s somewhat ironic to me that the next time I would see him, he’d again be wearing a uniform, and a green one at that! This time he’d traded in his NFL jersey for his costume as PFC Melvin Peterson.

The play, the 1982 Pulitzer Prize winner by Charles Fuller, takes us through a fictional investigation into the murder of a black Sergeant on an Army base in Louisiana in 1944, when the military was racially segregated. The interactions of the characters and the action of the play also serve as a commentary on race relations between blacks and whites at the time, as well as among blacks themselves.

Nnamdi was a standout for me on the night I saw the show. Maybe it was partly because I was curious how someone I’d never known in this context might fare alongside people who’ve long been established “in the biz”. Whatever the reason, I was taken in from start to finish. His performance on the stage was as solid as his play on the field. As PFC Peterson he delivered a nuanced, intense portrayal that mirrored his coverage of wide receivers during games. As a member of the troupe, he was a consummate team player – as was the entire ensemble. Each individual brought their “A Game” to the performance, and it translated into a riveting night of theatre.

From “What If” to “Yes I Can”

When Justin offered his in-depth analysis for his Tom Brady piece, it was a purely speculative narrative – based on a quote from Tom after seeing the show. He mentioned one day maybe wanting to do a show, maybe for a week. I don’t need to speculate or hypothesize – I saw it with my own eyes. What I witnessed during that preview performance was an athlete who played at the top of his game who took another step forward in a separate career. If that performance is any indication of his career trajectory, I’d say the future is bright for Nnamdi Asomugha. Bravo, sir! Have a great run and I look forward to your future theatrical endeavors – who knows, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to share a stage with you one day!

Tuesday, January 21st was the formal Opening Night for the production. It runs at the American Airlines Theater through March 15th – if you have a chance to check it out, I would definitely recommend it.

Joe is an actor who grew up eating, living and breathing sports. He spent many an afternoon on the soccer or baseball field in his youth (and even gave several other sports a shot) before a series of events put him on the path to pursuing a performing career. Subsequently, he's worked almost every other type of job you could imagine while trying to support that endeavor. Whenever he's not working any of those jobs, he can often be found watching, playing or discussing sports in some way. Most of that banter revolves around the Mets, Giants, Rangers or Manchester United. His short term goal is to fully convert his fiance into a rabid sports fan, not someone who leaves the room whenever he turns a game on.

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