The Los Angeles Chargers’ Austin Ekeler, who is coming off an impressive first season as the team’s starting running back in 2018. After struggling to find his NFL footing following a failed attempt at being drafted by the Patriots and Eagles last year, many questioned if he was destined for success or not. Having been raised by two people with special needs himself helped him feel confident about his abilities despite what others may say
The “Austin Ekeler” is a story of how he used his bond with his mom to prove all the doubters wrong.
INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA – Suzanne Ekeler has arrived late. Although the game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the New York Giants is still an hour away, she became engrossed in a conversation with other parents of players in the SoFi Stadium parking lot and, well, “you know.”
Ekeler, the mother of Chargers dynamo running back Austin Ekeler, is nearly as quick to get to her seat as her son is on the field. She climbs up a section from where she was initially situated since the game was being obstructed by too many people in her field-level seats, which she watches with unashamed enthusiasm and pride.
She’s wearing a blue Chargers T-shirt with the number 30 on it, which is, of course, Austin’s number.
“How does it feel to come into the stadium knowing he’s going to play?” she asks, echoing a previous inquiry. Suzanne takes a moment to evaluate her response. She answers with a response that almost any other mother in her situation would give: she’s simply glad to be able to watch Austin play at SoFi.
And with that, she dashes down to her front-row seat, where she will be joined by Austin’s girlfriend, Melanie Wilking, to cheer her heart out.
Suzanne has a lot to be happy about, particularly in this, Austin’s sixth season. Ekeler has run for 730 yards on 161 attempts and scored nine touchdowns, including four against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 21. He will face the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs at SoFi Stadium (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network) on Thursday night. With 58 catches for 535 yards and seven touchdowns, he is an important element of the Chargers’ passing game. He is tied for second in the NFL with 16 total touchdowns.
And he has the Chargers (8-5) in the midst of the AFC West competition, a game behind the Chiefs (9-4) and with a prior win over Kansas City in September, thanks to a slew of great receivers and quarterback Justin Herbert.
Austin and Suzanne had arrived at the end of a long and twisting road.
Suzanne has been a fan of Austin’s since he was a high school football player, long before he became an NFL star. Even though the family was going through a difficult time at the time, she was always there for Austin and his half-brother Wyett, who is now a safety at the University of Wyoming.
Ekeler is a renaissance guy who loves to be referred to as a warrior. It’s how he’s spent his life, battling for what he’s achieved and proving himself. Putting up fence posts and melting the ice in the water tanks so the animals could drink while battling a tense relationship with his stepfather and undertaking unimaginably arduous tasks on his family’s ranch in Eaton, Colorado.
Suzanne believes that his time with his stepfather was the most difficult for him. “It was difficult for all of us.”
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Ekeler has been thrust onto the world scene. Not bad for a kid that no one believed in save his mother. And, of course, his family and friends; a dozen or more are expected to attend Thursday’s game at SoFi Stadium, when Ekeler will once again demonstrate his toughness.
Against the Giants, he planted incorrectly on his left ankle and had to have it wrapped on the sideline. Ekeler could have returned to the game, according to Chargers coach Brandon Staley, but the team elected to rest him for Thursday’s game against the Chiefs.
He’s been receiving therapy around the clock since then.
Ekeler has said that he will be prepared. And you have faith in him when he says it. Never count him out, as James put it.
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