Tucson, AZ (KOLD) - When the Arizona Cardinals kick off against the San Diego Chargers Friday in their second preseason game, there's a chance Wildcat defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae will find the broadcast and pay some attention. At least through the first series. Addae has a personal connection not to the Cardinals but to the Chargers - the same team that employees "The Hitman," aka his younger brother, fourth-year safety Jahleel Addae.
"My brother, man, I'll tell you, he's probably the tightest person to me in the world," said Addae. "I know my dad's been a big influence but my younger brother and I have grown up obviously side by side going through the same experiences both in college and in high school and now professionally, we’ve got a different bond."
He's not kidding. When it comes to life's path, the Addae brothers chose parallel routes.
Jahmile, the elder by nearly six years, was a standout on both offense and defense. By the end of his senior season at Riverview High School in Florida, he was named first-team all-conference, all-county, and all-state. After Florida, he played free safety for Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia, finishing his college career as a 2005 Ronnie Lott Trophy finalist and first-team All-Big East honor.
Despite the accolades, the NFL draft came and went, Addae’s phone never rang. Instead, he was picked up as an undrafted free-agent for both Tampa Bay and Indianapolis before a heart condition forced him to give up his playing career and go into coaching.
Younger brother Jahleel was also a standout player at Riverview, becoming the third player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards three different seasons.* He planned to follow Jahmile to West Virginia but when Rodriguez left the Mountaineers to coach for Michigan, Addae switched his commitment to Central Michigan, where he promptly switched from offense to defense. Through four years, he earned the nickname "The Hitman" for his ferociousness and developed into an All-Mid-American Conference safety.
None of the success mattered on draft day when, like Jahmile, Jahleel never heard his name called. Instead, he signed an undrafted rookie deal to play for the San Diego Chargers.
“When he was going through the process,” said Addae, “he did all the same things I did. Almost a carbon copy. I kept in his mind that, hey, no matter how this thing turns out on draft day, when you get a shot make it work for yourself.”
And that’s where the parallel paths diverge. While Jahmile went into coaching, Jahleel continued playing and, heeding his brother’s advice, he made the most of it. Under the tutelage of Chargers’ veteran safety Eric Weddle, Addae morphed into one of the valuable defenders on the team. He started 12 games in 2015, finishing with 65 tackles, four pass breakups, and a sack. He was so crucial to their makeup that the Chargers wasted little time inking his restricted free agent tender. Which means this upcoming season, Jahleel Addae will be earning over $2.5 million.
“I guess four years later and a couple million later he’s doing alright,” said Addae.
For the brothers, life has had a way of keeping their connection close both figuratively and literally. When Jahleel went to Central Michigan, Jahmile was with Rodriguez at Michigan. When Jahleel got the call to come to San Diego, Jahmile was with Rodriguez at Arizona.
“We’ve always been the two in our family that, even though we’re away from home, we’ve always had each other. For what that’s worth, we’ve both been each other’s backbone through some tough processes both on and off the field.”
Addae said he talks to his brother every day but that the conversations steer away from football.
“My friends are these coaches,” said Addae. “But even when we get together at a BBQ we’re talking football. It’s always good to have someone who can pull you away from it and get you outside of that zone and allow you to just be Jahmile instead of being Coach Addae.”
Jahmile Addae and Jahleel Addae. Two brothers. Two similar paths. One shared bond.
“He’s everything to me,” said Addae. “I think if you ask him, he’d probably say vice versa.”