Where Are They Now
A standout linebacker at Clemson where he totaled 142 tackles and 17.5 sacks, Ricky Sapp was selected by Philadelphia in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
Labeled as a terrific prospect and a player with a great amount of upside potential, Sapp’s right knee didn’t cooperate. Injured during training camp, he had to undergo arthroscopic surgery, and spent the year on injured reserve.
Released by the Eagles the following season and becoming a free agent, a major reason Sapp made his way to the Jets was because of who was their General.
“I had other teams that were interested, but it worked out to where I went to the New York Jets and Rex Ryan,” Sapp said. “At that time, Rex was known for having an amazing defense. He was a defensive guru. So I definitely wanted the opportunity to play in that defense and be around Rex. He definitely has a great personality. I thought he was an amazing coach. So it all made sense to be in that building with those guys.
“They told me that they liked me coming out of college and the things that they wanted me to do within that defense. They ran a 3-4 defense, and I was an outside linebacker, so I definitely knew what was expected.”
On New York’s practice squad for the second half of the 2011 season, Sapp made his NFL debut the following year in Week 10 when the Jets traveled to Seattle to meet the Seahawks.
“That was such an amazing moment. It really was,” Sapp said. “Seattle was doing really well at the time. And one of my best friends who I played with at Clemson, Byron Maxwell, was on that team. But it was just awesome to be on the field and be playing and also just playing against him.”
Over that season and the next, Sapp played in nine games for the Jets. But from October 31, 2011 to November 14, 2013, he was also on their transaction list as either signed, assigned to the practice squad, waived, or released 14 times.
“You know, it’s rough,” Sapp said. “You never go through stuff like that until you get to that level. I can remember just thinking to myself, ‘Wow, this is something that I didn’t expect to go through.’
“But I just looked at it as an opportunity for me to stay and fight for what I wanted to do. So I kept going. Being around some older guys and watching what they do and how they move, and getting encouragement from them, they definitely kept me motivated.”
Sapp’s time with the Jets wasn’t as long as he would have liked, but it was memorable.
“My last year there, I think that was my best training camp,” he said. “I opened the season up that year on the roster. We played against Tampa Bay (in the season-opener) and (Buccaneers defensive end) Da’Quan Bowers, who’s my cousin, we played high school ball together (at Bamberg-Ehrhardt in South Carolina), and we played at Clemson together, so that was also an amazing moment for me, as well.”
When Sapp, who went on to spend parts of two seasons with the Houston Texans, was drafted by the Eagles 13 years ago, he founded the Ricky Sapp Foundation. Still going strong, it encourages youth to make positive changes within themselves, their schools and communities. And to aid kids in becoming their very best and to educate adults that their actions do matter.
“I do several events throughout the year that’s geared towards the youth. Just helping and giving back to the community,” Sapp said. “My motto for my foundation is – Dream Big, Live Big. I want to try to reach as many kids as I can and encourage them and motivate them to dream big as they go through major things in their life.”
And when Sapp sees that he’s making a difference…
“Oh, man, it’s a blessing,” he said. “I’m thankful to have the gift of God to be able to work with kids, to be able to speak their language. So whenever I do you see that I’m helping them, it motivates me even more to continue to try and encourage as many kids as I can.”
The father of two daughters: Aniyah and Sara; and a son, Bra’lyan, who is a red shirt freshman linebacker at Wofford Colleg; Sapp makes his home in Clemson, SC. Last year, he returned to his alma mater to be a strength and conditioning coach for the football team.
“Going back there and be able to see how the coaches do it, how they prepare, just to see how Coach (Dabo) Swinney runs that program, it was truly amazing,” Sapp said. “To learn from so many coaches there, to learn from all the strength and conditioning coaches, and then to be around those amazing guys that were going through it, I loved it. It was definitely an amazing time for me. I did that for a full year and a half.”
Sapp is now a motivational speaker, with his audiences mainly high school students, and the host of a podcast – Talk To Me Tuesday.
“I look at motivational speaking like a football game. I get myself hyped up for the speech and then I go, I deliver my best. I love it,” Sapp said. “I hope they take home knowing that they can make a change in this world. I hope they take that they have a life and that they can challenge this world. And I hope that they take from me that they can dream, and that they can dream big.
“And I love doing the podcast because I do it live on Facebook every Tuesday at seven o’clock. Of course, it is a motivational encouragement podcast, so I talk about different topics. I talk about mental health. I talk about many different things. But I love being able to interact with people. I’ve been doing the podcast for a while now, and I definitely enjoy it and want to grow that as well.”
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