Man on a Mission

by Bruce W. Biesenthal

His given name is Muhammed-Kabeer Olarewaju Gbaja-Biamila.

The world of the NFL knows him as KGB.

And quarterbacks know him as their worst nightmare.

Gbaja-Biamila became the first player in Green Bay Packer history to record double-digit sacks in three consecutive years.

He is relentless, determined, athletic, energized, vital, effervescent, committed, animated and disciplined. In football terms, he has a motor that doesn’t stop. And his high energy approach applies to all he tackles – both on the field and off.

The career sack leader at San Diego State, Gbaja-Biamila was drafted by the Packers in the fifth round of the 2000 draft, as the 149th overall pick.

His first game on an NFL field in a regular season game was against San Francisco, on October 15, 2000, and his first sack came in that same game, as he downed Jeff Garcia.

That was the first of many sacks to come.

In 2001, Gbaja-Biamila began the year recording nine sacks in the first four games. Only two other players in the history of the NFL had nine sacks in the first four games, and both of them were legendary pass-rushers – Mark Gastineau of the New York Jets and Kevin Greene of the Carolina Panthers. To make Gbaja-Biamila’s accomplishment even more noteworthy, he was not even a full-time player, entering the game only during obvious pass-rush situations.

With 13 _ sacks in 2001, 12 in 2002 and 10 in 2003, Gbaja-Biamila became the first player in Green Bay Packer history to record double-digit sacks in three consecutive years.

“It was like the Red Sea opened”

The sack that allowed Gbaja-Biamila to set the record for most consecutive years with double-digit sacks came in a Monday night game against Oakland, on December 22nd, one of the most emotional games of the year for every football fan, and for Gbaja-Biamila for additional reasons. That was the game following the death of Brett Favre’s father. The world marveled at Favre’s courage.

For Gbaja-Biamila, that game held additional significance. It was the first time he would ever play against his brother, Abkar Gbaja-Biamila. The game was played not long after the one year anniversary of the Gbaja-Biamila’s mother, Bola, killed in a car accident in Califonia.

“It was the first time I was playing against my brother, and my mom would have been there. When Brett’s father died, it opened our wounds,” said Gbaja-Biamila.

“I want to play to an Audience of One”

He had entered that game needing three sacks to reach double-digits. The first came in the first series he was on the field, the second came toward the end of the first half.

Then came the third one. “It was like the Red Sea opened,” Gbaja-Biamila said. “The quarterback was just standing there. I almost just stopped and stood there because I was shocked.

“It was so surreal. It was like a voice said, ‘It’s real – go for it.’

“I went in untouched. My body is used to being bounced, and I was never touched.

“I knew God had done it.”

Gbaja-Biamila sees God’s hand in everything that happens – from making the team to becoming a starter to setting records. And in every success, Gbaja-Biamila wants to make sure the proper credit is given. With every sack, his reaction is tempered, and designed not to flaunt his accomplishment but to express his gratitude to God. “What’s the point of celebrating and intimidating your opponent when it has nothing to do with you?” he pointedly asks.

2003 was a difficult year for Gbaja-Biamila. The Packers had signed him to a new contract, and the game became a business. Before he had played with a sense of joy. “I was like a kid out there playing,” he says.

With the contract came different expectations. Gbaja-Biamila felt the need to prove himself. The Packers, while negotiating, had pointed out the short-comings in his game. He hadn’t proved himself. He hadn’t always been a starter. He couldn’t play against the run.

Gbaja-Biamila felt the sting of the criticism, and he felt the pressure of performance. But with injuries, and regularly facing double-teaming, the number of sacks was not what it had been the prior two years.

“I’m in the prosperity now, and when my career’s over, in some ways it will be like a famine”

“It was hard. I imagined there were those who questioned my love of the game, thinking because I had gotten paid I had lost my fire.

“All I want to do is give glory to God. I want to be out there, having fun, glorifying Jesus. I don’t want to fall into the trap of trying to please the coaches or fans. I want to play to an Audience of One.”

Gbaja-Biamila is looking forward to a great year, and to so much more. He is closing in on more sack records for the Packers, and, with 37 career sacks, is 31 shy of Reggie White’s all-time team sack record.

Of course, Gbaja-Biamila knows that football doesn’t last forever.

“My wife always says I’m going to be a pastor, but I don’t want to be a pastor. I want to do a foundation for guys – Father’s Storehouse.

“I’m going to be the best football player I can be, and when I’m done, I’m going to teach people how to be faithful servants. I’m using the opportunity football gives me like Joseph. There were seven years of prosperity and seven years of famine. I’m in the prosperity now, and when my career’s over, in some ways it will be like a famine – but I’ll have a purpose. I want to be able to give people what they need and teach them how to manage it.”

He is a man on a mission – whether his target is a quarterback or what he wants to do after his career is over.

And that mission is simple. He says it in his own style: “I want to take the same passion I have for football and use it to glorify God.”