Benwikere, Sr., was also business-minded. A self-made entrepreneur, he encouraged Bené to learn the value of earning money by selling candy at school.
Bené looks up to his father, who has been successful as a restaurant chef, a writer and ran his own comedy club in Los Angeles. Olisaemeka’s parents both work in the medical field, and Linda and Thomas Odenigbo are a highly respected physician and engineer, respectively.
Ifeadi’s voice swells with pride when he speaks of his parents, whom he describes as “the best of the best” in their fields and relays the challenges they faced in order to give their family the best life possible in the States.
But he loses the serious tone when describing his own venture into football, instead smiling and slipping into the heavier accent of his father.
“It just bewildered my father, like, ‘What do you mean you want to play football? What do you mean you want to run track? Instead of that track and football time, after school you could be studying,’ ” Ifeadi said, drawing out the words and re-enacting a childhood scene in animated fashion.
Ade experienced a similar reaction.
Having originally come to America to play basketball but being drawn instead to the football field, it was difficult to communicate a passion for the sport that his father knew only through ESPN highlights.
“I remember the first time I told my dad. It was a shock to him. He was like, ‘You’re playing American football? Is that the sport we used to watch?’ ” Ade recalled. “My dad would say, ‘How are they just falling on top of each other, and they just got up again like nothing happened to them?’ So, the first time I told him I was playing football, he was kind of scared.”
Benwikere, Sr., also was uncertain when Bené began playing football in elementary school.
“He was OK with me playing basketball – to him, it was fewer injuries,” Bené explained. “I don’t think he really, really accepted me playing football until about college.”
But their families have come to embrace the football life and are proud of their sons for playing at the highest level.