Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo remembers everything from the Bears' Super Bowl appearance in the 2006 season. He remembers the emotions before and after the loss against the Indianapolis Colts. And he remembers the thrill of Devin Hester's game-opening kickoff return for a touchdown.
In a way, Ayanbadejo, a Chicago native who spent three seasons with the Bears (2005-07), wants to win this year's Super Bowl for his former Bears teammates.
"It's all coming back," Ayanbadejo said. "I was in a restaurant the other day and they were having highlights from all the Super Bowls and then they had the '06 Super Bowl. I was sitting there talking, but while they showed the highlights from that Super Bowl, I had to stop everything and I just sat there and I just watched. I remembered how it felt to not be successful. I remembered how it felt to have the first kickoff return for a touchdown by the 'Windy City Flyer.'
"It was a myriad of emotions I was feeling, so to be back here [in the Super Bowl] and to be able to right that ship that went wrong in 2006, it would be an amazing experience. We're looking forward to doing that. But man, it's amazing to be back. It feels good to be back and all my Bears boys I have you in my heart. They're on my back right now. Part of my motivation to get that championship is them as well."
Ayanbadejo can recall exactly what he did during Hester's dramatic kickoff return.
"[Special teams] coach [Dave] Toub made the call and actually I really didn't even make my block," Ayanbadejo said. "Usually you get a good block or you hammer a guy and you finish a guy, and you're like, 'Yeah, I did my job.' I kind of just like deflected my guy away from the return. I really didn't do much.
"[Hester] just hit that hole and I just watched him running, running and running. He was looking at himself in the jumbotron and the kid [Matt Giordano] caught up to him. He wasn't faster than him. He only caught up to him because he was watching the jumbrotron."
Ayanbadejo was a Pro Bowler for the Bears in 2005 and 2007 and said he's still close to some players, including Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs.
"They're still my boys," he said. "I love those guys big time."
Ayanbadejo has played with plenty of great linebackers over his career.
"Yeah I played with Urlacher, Ray Lewis, Junior Seau, and Zach Thomas," he said. "I played with a lot of great linebackers and I've been lucky to learn and see what those guys do and how they've been so great and so successful. It's like I'm a fan. I just get to sit there and watch them and everybody asks, 'What linebacker was the best? Who's the best? Who's better?' And I know you're probably getting there but I say, 'Why do I have to choose? I've had them all.'"