B.J. Raji, Green Bay's Breakout Star B.J. Raji, a second-year defensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers, has been having a breakout season, and will enjoy the spotlight of the Super Bowl this year.
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B.J. Raji, Green Bay's Breakout Star

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B.J. Raji, Green Bay's Breakout Star

B.J. Raji, Green Bay's Breakout Star

B.J. Raji, Green Bay's Breakout Star

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/133475363/133477991" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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B.J. Raji, a second-year defensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers, has been having a breakout season, and will enjoy the spotlight of the Super Bowl this year.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

NPR's Mike Pesca went to the lineman's hometown of Westwood, New Jersey, to find out where got his moves.

MIKE PESCA: Unidentified Man: On third down and five, pressure - pass is picked off, and who is it? Big B.J. Raji for the touchdown.

(SOUNDBITE OF NFL BROADCAST)

PESCA: The Fox announcers asked, what's B.J. Raji even doing there? It's an interesting journey. B.J. stands for Busari Jr. Busari Sr. came from Nigeria by way of London, by way of France, seemingly furthering his education every step of the way with degrees in engineering, followed by pharmacy, followed by mental health, and he's now getting his doctorate in divinity. He's a minister at his Harlem church three days a week and at nights...

BUSARI RAJI S: I go to work every night, 11 to 7:30 in the morning every day. It doesn't bother me. You know, I must live much.

MAMIE RAJI: Very few.

PESCA: You heard there Mamie, B.J.'s mom, Busari's wife and also Busari's boss because Mamie is the bishop of the church where Busari is minister. Their personal flock began with an 8-pound, 5-ounce B.J., who, from the time he could walk, ran.

RAJI S: We were afraid he would hurt himself because he's always running. Stop. You're going to fall. You know, he never fell.

PESCA: The family moved from Queens to Westwood, New Jersey, when B.J. was 8. His first love was basketball. In fact, the middle Busari boy, Corey, plays for Boston College. But soon, someone saw the large and nimble B.J. and directed him to the football field. Busari, who thought American football was overly violent, remembers that B.J. struggled mightily to do calisthenics at his very first football practice.

RAJI S: And I just couldn't take that. I wanted to just go down there and pull him out. But as I was just about to do something, somebody said, stop. Look at the children. If they can do it, he can do it. So I pulled back, and I'm glad I did.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

PESCA: But by day two, literally, day two, Busari says, B.J. was showing aptitude for football. Very soon, he had established himself as the blend of size, speed and determination that would characterize his game to this day. But the size part of that equation did trouble Busari, who's a svelte man of under 6 feet tall. Mamie is only 5-foot-3.

RAJI S: I remember him when he was in junior high school, and his father was after him about losing weight. And I'd never forget, we were in the kitchen, and he was fixing some food and he said, Daddy, this weight is going to make me a millionaire.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

PESCA: And there's one more thing. The dance, the famous hip-shaking shimmy that B.J. busted out in the Chicago end zone after his touchdown. It turns out that when B.J. was 2 years old, he would get his grandmother to chase him.

RAJI S: Run through the dining room and up under the dining room table so fast when he's standing there and do the same thing he did that night. Granny can't catch me.

PESCA: Mike Pesca, NPR News, Dallas, Texas.

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