Where Jon Asamoah got his mean streak
March, 17, 2014
By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com
Frederick Breedon/Getty ImagesGuard Jon Asamoah's aggressive style of play will be a boost to the Falcons' line.Jon Asamoah got the point a long time ago.
In 2010, the year he was drafted in the third round by Kansas City, the new Falcons right guard had a discussion with his former offensive line coach at Illinois, Eric Wolford, about moving into the next phase of life. Asamoah always viewed Wolford as a father figure, and Wolford never shied away from offering fatherly advice -- on everything.
"I told him, 'Handle your business. Handle your money. Make sure that you’re involved with a woman who genuinely likes you for who you are,’ ’’ said Wolford, now the head coach at Youngstown State. "Then I asked him, `What kind of vehicle did you buy? Don’t go out and buy some $100,000 vehicle. Most millionaires drive Ford Explorers.’
"I believe he bought a Tahoe, which was very smart."
The Falcons made an intelligent move in plucking the 6-foot-4-inch, 305-pound Asamoah from Kansas City in free agency. The team sorely needed a big body up front to help protect Matt Ryan, the most pressured quarterback in the league during the 2013 season.
Asamoah, who will make an average of $4.5 million a year in a five-year deal, immediately brings more "nastiness’’ to what has been a far from intimidating offensive line. But he didn’t always tote a mean streak. He credited Wolford for bringing it out of him.
"Wolf, his mentality is all about that you’ve got to have a certain attitude to play the position,’’ Asamoah said. "You want people, when they play you, to remember you like, `We’ve got to play those guys again.’ And that’s all he pushed for from the second he got there.
"He was huge. He helped me to love the game of football -- really love the game football -- and love being an offensive lineman.’’
Wolford, a former offensive guard at Kansas State, came to Illinois during Asamoah’s sophomore season at Illinois. The coach had a similar approach with all his linemen: getting the "chubby kid who used to be made fun of at the swimming pool’’ to believe in himself and take any aggression out on the field.
The approach eventually worked with Asamoah.
"The first thing I thought about Jon was Jon was a humble, quiet, great person,’’ Wolford said. "But you needed to push him to understand this is a big boy’s game. You’ve got to get nasty with some people, and it’s OK. They’re not going to arrest you on the football field for your play. And that’s obviously something that eventually came out of him.
"I remember one time we were face to face, I can’t repeat what was said, but I was getting my point. We never talked about taking somebody out. But there’s an intimidation factor. You’ve got to be all day. I played the position, so I can relate.’’
Wolford already knew Asamoah was grounded. His parents always stressed education, which led to him being a scholar-athlete. His father, Ghana native Samuel Asamoah, has battled diabetes through the years, as was well-documented in this piece featured on the Big Ten Network.
So as Asamoah ventured into the NFL, Wolford was never concerned about Asamoah’s name coming across the police blotter.
"We hear so much about the negative and the way these guys handle themselves, and it’s very comforting as a coach because you don’t have to worry about Jon Asamoah being out and not handling his business away from the football field,’’ Wolford said. "He can handle the distractions. A lot of these guys can’t handle the distractions. And there are a lot of them.
"Jon Asamoah is a great person. It’s exciting to see a guy like him have some success in the National Football League. He’s type of role model, he’s the type of man, he’s the type of person that needs more exposure for the good things that they do.’’