Every Monday evening, my family is glued to the TV, watching NBC’s American Ninja Warrior. We watch as finalists compete in their regions to move on to the national finals in Las Vegas, where they face a four-stage course modeled after the famed Mt. Midoriyama in Japan. Yes, it would make sense to drink a Midori Sour while watching.
Alongside Matt Iseman as host is former NFL player Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, with a name so exciting, it deserves the spotlight for today’s post.
Adding his middle names only makes it better: Akbar Oluwakemi-Idowu Gbajabiamila.
- Akbar is Arabic and means “great.” This Akbar is not to be confused with Akbar and Jeff, from Matt Groening’s Life in Hell comic strip.
- Oluwakemi means “God blessed me.”
- Idowu means “born after twins.” His older brother Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, a twin, is the Green Bay Packers all-time sacks leader. Lucky for him, they fit the name on his jersey.
- And lastly, their last name, Gbaja-Biamila means “big man come save me,” which comes from their paternal great-great-grandfather, who stood seven feet tall and was the village moderator in the Nigerian village in which he lived.
Born to parents Mustapha and Bolatito, the 6’6″ (1.98 m) Biamila lives up to his name as a big man, which helped him excel at basketball until making the move to football during his senior year of high school in Los Angeles, California.
But football and Ninja Warriors are not the only thing dear to him. His broadcasting work, along with other speaking engagements, provides the platform for him to assist children through the Asomugha Foundation, which emphasizes education as the means for power and growth in disadvantaged youth. He also serves on the foundation’s board of members, under the direction of Nnamdi Asomugha, a former defensive back in the NFL, playing eleven seasons before retiring as an Oakland Raider.
Outside of his work with the Asomugha Foundation, Gbaja-Biamila’s passion is speaking about financial literacy. He has spent many hours working with impoverished youth in San Diego, speaking to them about the value of investing and understanding the financial system, as well as helping with reading and math programs. I am reminded of the quote: To whom much has been given, much shall be required. Gbaja-Biamila certainly knows how to give back. I guess when your very name identifies as you as a big man who comes to save people, you have to follow suit.