It was an ordinary day. Reading an article in the "Sports" pages of our local paper titled, Bani Gbadyu settles into life in Lebanon. My interest in the story came from my meeting Bani several times when he was a high school football player at Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, Maryland playing for my son-in-law Dave who was the head coach at the school at the time.
Bani's history reads like a movie line. Bani was born in Liberia, a West African nation that for years has been sporadically fighting a civil war with daily gunfire. Bani's family escaped the country when he was seven years old and took refuge in the country Ivory Coast. They then immigrated to the United States, arriving by boat in New York City the same way that so many have over the history of the United States. At the time Bani was ten years old. Other family members lived in Gaithersburg so it was natural that they gravitated to that location. Dave had the Quince Orchard Cougars at the top of their game with winning seasons every year he had coached at the school and Bani fit in right away, knowing after his freshman year that football was going to be his way to a successful life.
Penn State Linebacker #15 Bani Gbadyu
By his senior year he was first-team all-state while leading the Cougars to two Class 4A West Championships. My wife and I made many visits to the area where Dave and our daughter lived over those years and saw many of the football games when Bani played. He was a special talent, playing both offense and defense, that you could tell was going to succeed just based on his football skills. Had the chance to meet him after games on more than one occasion. He was recruited by Nebraska, Georgia and North Carolina State and actually committed to LSU. But then he met one of the greatest college football recruiters in Larry Johnson, defensive line coach at Penn State. With Larry's encouragement, Bani's coach Dave helped him get into Penn State University under the tutelage of Joe Paterno. Penn State has been known for years as Linebacker "U" and Bani became one of those linebackers. While at Penn State, Bani met Molly Kramer through his teammate Jared Odrick. Odrick was a student at nearby Lebanon High School (Pennsylvania) during his football career while Molly was a nearby Cedar Crest High School graduate.
Oakland Raiders Linebacker #48 Bani Gbadyu
Bani eventually married Molly. While a student at Penn State, Bani was a dean's list student quite a few times and earned his degree in human develop- ment and family studies. After graduation, in 2011, Bani was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Oakland Raiders. He got to play in the preseason, but wasn't retained by the team. He moved with his wife back to the town where she grew up, Lebanon, PA. He now is a community sales manager for Ephrata (Pennsylvania) based Landmark Homes, overseeing the sales operation for developments throughtout the region. He is also the defensive line coach at Manheim Township HIgh School where I taught high school as well as still do the school yearbook and work printing in-house materials. He is under head coach Mark Evans who was a Cedar Crest graduate. Made visits a few times to practice sessions to visit with Bani and managed to take Dave with me one time while he was visiting at our home in Lancaster. Funny that what goes around, comes around. So true in this case. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.