What you need to know:
- Gentle giant who wowed the world was the first Kenyan to play in the prestigious American NFL
Daniel Adongo was touted as the next Sonny Bill Williams in global rugby circles.
Williams is a former professional rugby union player and heavyweight boxer; Adongo is a Kenyan who took the rugby world by storm in 2013 while playing for Kenya Simbas 15s team in the 2015 Rugby World Cup qualifiers.Two big men with big profiles.
So how did Adongo, the well-heeled, well-built lad with a bright future, degenerate to the fumbling, pot-smoking man whose videos from the US broke hearts in Kenya on Thursday?
The story starts from his celebrated decision to shift from rugby to a new sport when he signed a two-year contract with American National Football League (NFL) side Indiana Colts Franchise. And with that Adongo, who is the first Kenyan to play in the world’s most famous rugby league, Super Rugby, with Southern Kings, also became the first Kenyan to feature in the NFL. You could, therefore, understand the admiration for the gentle giant.
His father Joseph wasn’t amused that his son had moved from rugby to the NFL, though. He reckoned that from his school days in Nairobi and London, Dan, as he is fondly known, had always been forceful in getting what he wanted, but also advocated for what was right.
“He always worked hard to get what he wanted and we noticed his talent when he was in nursery school,” said Joseph in an interview after he signed for Colts.
Colts general manager Ryan Grigson saw great potential in the Kenyan and gave him a Sh2.9 million-a-month contract.
Adongo became an instant sports celebrity, both in Kenya and the US. However, after several appearances for Colts, his contract was suspended on December 17, 2015 after police officers received at least two reports of possible domestic violence between Adongo and an unidentified female.
And that turned the tables on him. On Friday, his father, speaking to the Saturday Nation Sport, pleaded with Kenyans to go slow on his son as the family seeks to rescue him. His plea came following a viral video of Adongo in which he appears tattered and out of mind.
As Kenyans debated his welfare and his family rushed to his rescue in the US, it was not lost on many that his predicament appeared to bring to the fore, once again, the predicament some of the country’s best sport personalities go through after they fall from grace.
The same fate befell former national cricket player Maurice Odumbe and former professional boxer Conjestina “Hands of Stone” Achieng.
Odumbe was banned for five years in 2004 by the International Cricket Council (ICC) following allegations of match-fixing by receiving money from bookmakers.
The suspension ended the flamboyant Odumbe’s cricket career and sent him into depression. He has been in and out of rehabilitation since then.
All has not been well for Conjestina since slumping into depression in 2011. She vied for the World Boxing Council World middleweight title thrice without success but the contests came with good money.
“Whether Dan is in trouble is neither here nor there, but I want to tell his fans and Kenyans that his family is doing everything to put things under control,” said Joseph on phone from Juba, South Sudan, where he is managing banking services for Middle Eastern countries.
Joseph said what Dan is going through is synonymous with most sports celebrities, who fail to handle their status owing to pressure.
“Most slump into depression hence need help. Dan’s situation needs sobriety and calmness,” he said. “The media can build or destroy someone and that is why I am pleading with the media so that Dan doesn’t sink deep into depression.”
Joseph pleaded with Kenyans to focus on Dan’s success story in rugby and the National Football League. “Let us wish him success and the best in days to come as we handle the situation,” explained Joseph. “We are in touch daily and I can assure you all is well.”