Ex-NFL star on how he stumbled into acting and made his Broadway debut


(CBS) – Nnamdi Asomugha was one of the NFL’s best defensive backs during his 11-year professional sports career. The discovery of a new passion after his retirement led him to his Broadway debut in the Pulitzer Prize winning “A Soldier’s Play.”

“I’ve started the decade at the pro bowl and I ended the decade on Broadway,” Asomugha marveled during a sit-down with “CBS This Morning’s” Dana Jacobson. “This is not a dream that I ever had, and now this is so clearly what I should be doing.”

Asomugha was born into a Nigerian immigrant family. His parents had hoped he would become a doctor or a lawyer, but he said that growing up, he wanted to play basketball.

“I think the only real dream that I ever had was to play for the Lakers, and that got shut down. My brother was really my mentor and his thing was football, and so that got me into football,” he said.

Worried about the uncertainty of a professional football career, Asomugha chose to become a part-time TV analyst while he was still playing rather than wait until an unexpected injury or retirement could leave him without a job and a plan.

However, it was after Peter Berg, the director of a TV commercial Asomugha was in, told him he had natural talent that Berg had not seen often in athletes that Asomugha was on a serious path in front of the camera.

A short while later, Berg called Asomugha to see if he was interested in a small part on “Friday Night Lights” while he was still playing.

“That confidence from him, I think was something that kept me going down the path,” Asomugha said. He began taking acting classes once he retired from the NFL at the end of the 2013 season.

After an executive producing credit for Netflix’s “Beasts of No Nation,” he garnered a supporting role in 2017’s “Crown Heights,” a film he also produced. The role earned him two award nominations.

Asomugha said that it was a play reading in New York that awoke something new in him.

He described how the feeling reminded him of playing football again. “You start in an area that’s kind of like a locker room, you go out as group through like, a tunnel, this thing that’s very similar to what you’re going out onto a field on. Then they announce you, and then everyone cheers. And then you run out onto the stage and you do the work.”

He said it was the moment he realized “this I where I’m supposed to be.”

His newfound passion led him to the Broadway stage as private first class Melvin Peterson, where he works alongside veteran actors like Blair Underwood, Jerry O’Connell and David Alan Grier.

“He is really gifted and he’s really great, and I don’t think most people who come to the show know of his past,” Grier said of his co-star.

O’Connell however, knew exactly who he was, and said he would ask Asomugha’s opinion on his fantasy football lineup before a big game.

“But I have to be honest with you, he blew me away when we first did our rehearsal,” he said.

When asked if he misses football at all, Asomugha called the sport “a great time.”

“Football is definitely my first love. And you know, now finding this world in entertainment, through acting and producing, I didn’t think that I would be loving something, you know, as much as I did. But I’m so grateful.”

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