Friday, April 29, 2011
Akeem Ayers explains decision to leave N.Y.
By Blair Angulo
Akeem Ayers waited patiently for his name to be called Thursday night. He sat in the green room at New York City's Radio City Music Hall for nearly four hours.
His moment in front of the cameras never came.
The former UCLA linebacker didn't get selected until Friday afternoon -- 39th overall by the Tennessee Titans -- but by then he was already back in Los Angeles.
"I didn't really, honestly, plan on being there an extra day," Ayers said in a conference call with reporters. "My flight was already booked. Things were already set up."
Ayers had been a projected first-rounder for a long time, rising as high as 13th overall in some of ESPN's mock drafts. But a poor showing at the combine -- including disappointing 40-yard dash times of 4.80 and 4.83 -- discouraged some teams.
"It does leave a chip on my shoulder," Ayers said of him falling out of the first round. "It makes me work harder and more excited to play, just to prove the doubters wrong."
He said he didn't regret his decision to leave New York prematurely. He found out of his selection while he was in the car on the way home from the airport, missing it by about 10 minutes.
"I was still excited," he said. "It was probably a little better, just because it was more of a surprise. I didn't know who was picking at the time, so I'm driving home and I get a random call. It's probably an equal or greater feeling when you answer the phone and you don't know who it is."
Former UCLA teammate Rahim Moore, who was taken six spots later at 45th overall to the Denver Broncos, was in attendance Thursday just in case he was selected. He was there again Friday.
"We didn't really get a chance to talk," Ayers said. "It was late (Thursday) night and people had a lot going through their minds."
Ayers said he was excited about his opportunity to play both weak and strong side linebacker in Tennessee, where former UCLA cornerback Alterraun Verner experienced success last year as a rookie.
"It helps out a lot, especially with someone with almost the same background," Ayers said. "I grew up in L.A. and experienced pretty much the same things, the same college, so it'll be great to have a guy there to mentor me in a way."