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first_img Published on August 31, 2016 at 8:04 pm Contact Jon: jrmettus@syr.edu | @jmettus “He’s basically my little brother,” Sanu said. “I’ve always looked out for him. … To see him where he’s at today, I’m not surprised.”The pair first met when Strickland was about 7 or 8 years old and playing Pop Warner football. Sanu was a high school star who had just moved to the area, helping out with the practices and talking with the kids.Strickland was already hooked on football, but meeting Sanu was the “cherry on top.” Sanu noticed a talent in Strickland that stood out from the rest so he took him under his wing.,The next two years were spent with Strickland going to all of Sanu’s high school games, hearing Sanu’s name on the loudspeaker and imagining himself in the same spot.And as the duo got older, the closer they became.“Not the family everybody throws around, but truly family,” George said to describe their relationship. “And I mean took care of him.”Sanu would constantly pick Strickland up to workout and run routes. The NFL wide receiver still jokes with the college running back about switching positions.When Sanu was at Rutgers, he’d bring Strickland back to school with him to work out. Once Sanu reached the NFL, he hired a personal trainer. Then, he brought Jabbie and Strickland to the sessions with him. The trainer understood the situation. They were able to keep up.“I just always made sure I kept them around me so they weren’t around the wrong people,” Sanu said. “You have to have good influences around you so you don’t fall into the wrong crowd.,“I never wanted anything to happen to them as far as being at the wrong place at the wrong time.”Even when Sanu bought his first car after making it to the NFL — a Porsche Cayenne — he brought Strickland along.And when Strickland waited two or three days to go see Sanu the last time he was home, Sanu got upset, Strickland’s father, Bill, said.Before games, Sanu will tell Strickland: “Yo, Tae Beamer. Go hard.” Strickland called Sanu before a preseason game against the Cleveland Browns to say, “Yo, Mo. Go ball out. Time to ball out.”Strickland often reaches out to Sanu for advice. Sanu usually preaches extra work, humbleness and other requirements he has realized to make it to the NFL.,“I’ve been through what he’s going through now,” Sanu said. “… I know what it’s like so I’ve just been trying to help him get accustomed to what should he expect.”Strickland has come a long way from the slacking high school sophomore in need of a lecture, and his guiding influence has always been Sanu. Whether it be about college life or football or personal issues, Sanu is his go-to for advice.“It’s amazing just to have him by your side,” Strickland said, “always asking questions (such as) if you need any help about football or life skills. Anything.”“Just an awesome feeling seeing them grow up,” Sanu said. “I was there to help them through it.” Comments When Dontae Strickland’s grades were slipping, putting his future scholarship offers and football career in jeopardy, his football coach at South Brunswick High School knew just one man who could break through.Joe George, the coach, called up then-Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu to visit during his bye week for a surprise meeting in the coach’s office with Strickland and Sanu’s nephew, Mohamed Jabbie, who had grade problems as well.Sanu wasn’t just serving as a professional football player to command respect from an aspiring professional athlete, or even just a former South Brunswick (New Jersey) football star to give advice to someone whose shoes he had been in several years earlier.He was, and is, practically family to Strickland. So he didn’t hold anything back.What followed was “a lot of yelling, screaming,” Strickland said. George couldn’t help but think he probably shouldn’t be in the room as Sanu got “down and dirty with them.” The 45-minute to an hour-long speech left them all in tears, Sanu said.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe message was clear: You only play football once in your life. Don’t throw it away. No one cares how good you are if you don’t have the grades to go to college.“It was probably one of the best speeches that anyone has ever given me,” Strickland said, “and motivated me, probably still to this day, to give it my all no matter how bad I’m feeling or what’s going on.”Throughout Strickland’s football career and life, Sanu has served as a role model, mentor and source of tough love. He gave Strickland the nickname Tae Beamer because Strickland moves like a BMW, a nickname that’s stuck to this day.Strickland is entering his sophomore year and, despite seeing limited action as a hybrid in 2015, rose to the No. 1 running back spot in the spring. He was hurt for the latter part of training camp but still held the top running back spot on the Week 1 depth chart released Monday. Strickland said Tuesday he is “100 percent.” This is placeholder text Advertisement Facebook Twitter Google+ Dontae Strickland has developed a brotherly bond with NFL WR Mohamed Sanu Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment.last_img read more