"I'm excited to just get back out there and showcase who I am and what the Jay Train can do."
No doubt ever crept into the mind of Jay Ajayi about his ability to play football again — a sign that professional athletes are wired like few others.
Without even playing yet since being re-signed by the Philadelphia Eagles last week, more than a year after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the running back who is widely regarded to have a chronic knee issue already has proven that much.
“I knew I would play again,” Ajayi said Tuesday. “Patience, I think, is the biggest thing. My parents would keep telling me, and my support system as well, [that] just, even if it wasn’t a team where I would go work out or something, that perfect team, that perfect fit, it would end up coming.”
As it turned out, the Eagles were the perfect team at the perfect time in Ajayi’s career trek.
“What better situation [is there than] being able to come back here to the Eagles,” Ajayi asked. “A team that I’ve had the highest success with, winning the Super Bowl, and a team that I already know the offense is no crazy learning curve and there’s there’s a high comfort level here
“I love the fan base here. And my teammates, a lot of my teammates are still here, so it’s just a crazy way of how this whole year’s happened to come back around to being in Philly, but it’s definitely a blessing.”
Ajayi originally was acquired in a trade with the Miami Dolphins during the 2017 season and instantly became a crucial part of what would turn out to be a championship team. He averaged 5.8 yards per carry for them in the regular season and 4.4 in the playoffs, including 57 yards on just nine attempts in Super Bowl LII.
Though he didn’t feature the same burst the following season, he had tripled his touchdown total from the year before after just two games but then was injured in the fourth. That meant he wouldn’t even be able to take the field with them against the Jacksonville Jaguars in his native London four weeks later.
But Ajayi didn’t waste much time fretting about what could have been. He still had a job to do. Even after being cleared to play football again, he made sure not to pay much attention to games on TV.
“To be honest, I really didn’t try and watch too much football, because I knew my competitiveness, it would just kind of get me kind of upset that I wasn’t playing yet,” Ajayi said. “So I tried to just keep my mind on other things throughout the whole process and stay on my training. On Sundays, actually, I would go train myself like during the game time and stuff, just so I would not have to focus on watching football.”
Then, finally, came the call from the Eagles last Thursday and the emotional reunion the next day.
“Once I was in the building, it was crazy just to see all the people that I knew,” he said. “My old teammates and everyone was kind of excited to see me in the building. Even the people in the cafeteria, staff members, everything. You know, it’s like family being here.
“I was here when we did something special, so the memories and everything, those will last forever, and those relationships as well. So it’s just a blessing to just still have that positive reaction when I came back into the building.”
Ajayi was signed Saturday and in uniform against the New England Patriots the next day.
Alas, he saw no game action. After not having even practiced for 13 months, Ajayi was there just as an insurance policy for Miles Sanders and Boston Scott in lieu of Jordan Howard, who was an injury scratch.
What Ajayi’s role will be during these last six regular-season games or whether they plan to keep him is unclear.
Ajayi isn’t sweating it. He’s where he wants to be, and that’s good enough for now.
“I can’t really look too far into the future,” he said. “... I think a big thing for me is just using these games that I get and hopefully playoff games and even further than that to just showcase what I can do, showcase my ability again to this team that I can be a great contributor to the offense, showcase to my teammates, showcase to the fans, showcase to the rest of the NFL.
“So I think it’s just an exciting prospect for me just to get back on the field. You know, it’s been a long time since I played football in my mind. And so I’m excited to just get back out there and showcase who I am and what the Jay Train can do.”