Commentary

Younger Ayodele finds home with Saints

Ex-Cowboy blossomed with New Orleans, beat big brother to Super Bowl

Updated: February 4, 2010, 10:40 AM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Akin and Remi Ayodele dreamed about playing in the NFL. Once that happened for the brothers from Irving, Texas, the next dream was to play in the Super Bowl.

Remi, 26, thought Akin, 30, would reach that goal first because he got more playing time and had a four-year head start. But a funny thing happened along the way. While Akin was toiling for the Miami Dolphins, Remi moved up the New Orleans Saints' depth chart.

And you know the rest of the story. On Sunday, Remi and the Saints will face the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.

"It's kinda cool," said Remi, a defensive tackle. "I kinda feel like I'm playing for both of us. He's on this ride with me."

The ride started first for Akin, a linebacker who was drafted out of Purdue by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2002.

After four seasons with the Jaguars, he signed a free-agent contract with the Cowboys in 2006. As an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma, Remi split that season between the Cowboys' and Baltimore Ravens' practice squads.

Remi returned to Dallas in 2007 and played seven games for the Cowboys, alongside his brother.

But after the season, the Cowboys traded Akin to the Miami Dolphins and released Remi. That turned out to be a positive.

In the offseason, the Saints made Remi one of eight players they added in free agency. They also traded for linebacker Jonathan Vilma and tight end Jeremy Shockey.

"They play my style; more of an attack instead of trying to read things," Remi said of the Saints. "It freed me up to actually go out and play."

He didn't play much in 2008, and the expectations for 2009 weren't high because he was behind Kendrick Clancy. But Clancy injured his knee in Week 1 and never fully recovered. Remi eventually took over the starting job.

He finished the regular season with 53 total tackles and 1.5 sacks and continued to play well in the postseason.

With his brother and former Cowboys teammate Bradie James watching from the stands in the NFC Championship Game, Remi Ayodele knocked Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre down with a strong hit up high. Overall, Remi has eight tackles and a fumble recovery in the postseason.

"The knock on him coming in is 'Was he tough enough to play that position?'" said Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. "In the NFL, it's a car wreck every single snap, in a phone booth all year long, that's what he's got to play at the defensive tackle position. So we had to do some toughness things early on for me to get comfortable with him."

When you talk to the Ayodele brothers, you notice they're different.

Akin is clean-shaven with a bald head and wants to be a model when his playing days are over.

Remi has a Fro-hawk and facial hair. He walked around media day earlier this week wearing sunglasses.

"I told him the other day I think his haircut sucks," Williams joked.

The brothers are also businessmen, with each owning a Dallas-area restaurant. Remi's AMPM Restaurant and Lounge will host an NBA All-Star Game party next week.

One of his closest friends on the team is backup nose tackle DeMario Pressley, who describes Remi simply.

"Remi is Remi," Pressley said. "He's just being himself. You see him with a Mohawk, funky shoes, just a real good guy. I'm glad we're friends. He works real hard to stay on this team, and to see him succeed is awesome."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.