Prince Amukamara, born June 1989, has always been treated like royalty. Growing up with five sisters in Glendale, Arizona, Amukamara rarely had to lift a finger. “My name is Prince, but I was really treated like a prince,” Amukamara said with a grin. “My sisters took care of me. And we all roughed each other up. They didn’t take it easy on me, even though I was the second-oldest. But we got along.”
It seems fitting he received the noble treatment given the fact Amukamara is actually a Nigerian prince. Amukamara’s grandfather was the chief of Awo-Omamma, a city located in the southeastern Nigerian state of Imo. That makes the Bears cornerback next in line to occupy the throne if he chooses, though he currently doesn’t have any royal responsibilities or obligations to attend to.
So while most retired NFL players pursue careers in business or broadcasting, Amukamara, a first-generation American, is considering going to Nigeria and assuming his role as chief.
Prince Kelechi Amukamara Biography and Profile
PRO CAREER: Appeared in 98 contests with 84 starts over eight seasons for the New York Giants (2011-15), Jacksonville Jaguars (2016) and Chicago Bears (2017-18) … compiled 424 tackles, 10 interceptions (one returned for TD), 68 pass breakups, 5 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries and 10 TFLs … won a Super Bowl as a rookie for the New York Giants in 2011.
2018 SEASON: Started 15 games, recording 66 tackles, three interceptions (one returned for a TD), two forced fumbles, three tackles for loss and 12 passes defensed … scored his first career touchdown on a 49-yard interception return vs. Seattle … also recorded INTs vs. DET and LAR … inactive for Game 4 … recorded one pass defense in playoff game vs. PHI.
PREVIOUS SEASONS: 2017: Appeared in 14 games (12 starts), recording 48 tackles, 7 pass defenses and 1 fumble recovery. Inactive for Games 1 and 2. 2016: Appeared in 14 games with 12 starts for the Jacksonville Jaguars, recording 49 tackles, 6 pass breakups and 1 TFL. 2015: Played in 11 games with 10 starts and totaled 63 tackles (55 solo), 9 passes defensed,
1 interception, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery … missed five games due to a pectoral injury. 2014: Started the first eight games … recorded 46 tackles and a career-high 3 interceptions which tied for 2nd on the team. Suffered a torn right bicep on 11/3 vs. Indianapolis and was put on injured reserve. 2013: Started every game for the first time in his career … finished 4th on the team with 83 tackles and was second with 14 passes defensed … also had an interception and 2 forced fumbles. 2012: Played in 13 games with 11 starts … finished the season with 59 tackles, 1 interception and 6 passes defensed. 2011: Played in the final seven regular season games and all four postseason contests as a rookie for the Super Bowl winning New York Giants, recording 14 tackles, 1 interception, 2 pass breakups and 1 fumble recovery … season was shortened because of a fractured foot … was inactive for the season’s first nine games.
COLLEGE: Played in 49 games with 31 starts, recording 161 tackles, 5 interceptions, 26 pass breakups, 4 sacks, 6 TFLs, 3 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery … as a senior, was a unanimous All-America selection and All-Big 12 Conference first team choice … named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, joining Ndamukong Suh and Grant Wistrom as the only Cornhuskers to win the award … the defensive captain started all 14 games and ranked 6th on the team with 59 tackles, including 1 sack.
PERSONAL: Starred at Apollo High School (Glendale, Ariz.) and named the state’s player of the year by the Arizona Republic … two-way starter at running back, rushing for nearly 50 touchdowns and 3,389 yards over his final two seasons, adding
Amukamara’s hard work led to key play in win
During his first training camp with the Bears last summer, cornerback Prince Amukamara routinely participated in wide receiver drills to catch extra passes.
The eighth-year pro from Nebraska has focused even more on honing that aspect of his game this year, regularly catching footballs from JUGS machines before and after practice.
Amukamara’s hard work paid major dividends Monday night when he intercepted a Russell Wilson pass and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown. The clutch TD gave the Bears a 24-10 lead with 6:37 remaining in the fourth quarter of an eventual 24-17 victory.
“It’s definitely the fruits of my labor, the coaches’ labor and my teammates’ labor,” Amukamara said Thursday. “It was great to see it pay off on a huge stage and in a big part of the game.”
Amukamara couldn’t have picked a better time to score his first NFL touchdown. The Seahawks had cut the Bears’ seemingly safe 17-3 lead to 17-10 less than four minutes earlier and—with all the momentum on their side—were threatening to tie the game.
After intercepting the pass, Amukamara raced down the right sideline. When he realized that Wilson had the angle on him, the veteran cornerback cut back and dashed into the end zone. Amukamara wasn’t going to let a quarterback—even one as athletic as Wilson—tackle him.
“We have a lot of guys on our team that don’t let you live stuff down, and I wasn’t going to be on the end of that joke,” Amukamara said. “I used to play running back in high school, so I tried to do a little bit of a cutback.”
The interception was Amukamara’s first since Sept. 24, 2015 when he picked off the Redskins’ Kirk Cousins while playing for the Giants. With just seven interceptions in seven NFL seasons entering this year, Amukamara has been determined to improve that part of his game. He even told a reporter during the offseason that he was hoping to pick off 10 passes this year.
Working toward that lofty goal, Amukamara has caught literally thousands of footballs from JUGS machines since the start of the Bears’ offseason program in April.
“It’s more balls than I’ve ever caught in my life,” he said. “It helps a lot just feeling the ball, the speed of it and catching it at different angles and running [the machine] at different speeds. It starts to create that muscle memory.”
Amukamara revealed that Brad Childress, who worked with the Bears through training camp as a senior offensive consultant, taught him how to do ball drills on the JUGS machine. But it’s been defensive backs coach Ed Donatell who has consistently driven him the most.
“Coach Ed has been the one who has been leading it,” Amukamara said. “He’ll tell me, ‘[Steelers receiver] Antonio Brown catches 150 balls. You need to start ramping it up.’ Coach [Donatell] has really been at the forefront in challenging me the most.”
Amukamara wasn’t the only one thrilled by his pick six. Knowing how much work he’s put in and his lack of interceptions in the past, teammates and coaches exploded off the Bears sideline after he raced into the end zone.
“Everyone gives me crap every time if I drop a ball in practice,” Amukamara said. “Even coach [Matt] Nagy says, ‘All right, that’s more JUGS for you.’ To actually carry it over to the game where I actually make the play, I think to be honest everyone was just proud, like ‘Prince finally caught it.'”
Amukamara enjoying best camp of career
Prince Amukamara came to camp 2019 with something to prove. Entering his third year with the Bears, Amukamara is projected to be the starting cornerback opposite Kyle Fuller. Starting is nothing new for him. He hasn’t struggled to earn a starting spot since his second year in the league. But Amukamara wants to prove that he’s still got the skills to hold down the job. The past two weeks, he believes, have been the best training camp of his career.
“I just turned 30 in June,” said Amukamara. “One thing you don’t want to hear, especially at my position, is ‘Oh, you’re getting old’ or ‘Oh, he’s lost a step’ or ‘He’s lost speed’ and stuff like that. To show the scouts, to show the general management, the decision-makers, that I can still press. I can still run. I can still break with these young guys. I think, personally, that’s huge for me.”
Amukamara said that he has paid attention to his body every day looking for signs of wear and tear, like a sore back in the morning. For the time being, he’s passing that test.
“You hear all those stories of once you hit 30,” said Amukamara. “I’m starting to see that it’s a false narrative.”
While it may be a false narrative for Amukamara, cornerbacks over the age of 30 are extremely rare. Last season, 39 cornerbacks started at least 12 games–as Amukamara has for the past three years. More than twice as many of those players (13) were 23 years old-or-younger than were 29-or-older (6).
Amukamara’s longevity might have as much to do with his disposition as his talent. This season, he’s made an effort to set an example for his younger teammates.
“Especially as a vet,” said Amukamara, “you have guys, sometimes, that go through the motions and don’t take camp seriously because it’s kind of monotonous because you’ve been through it already. My job is to show the rookies and show everybody like, ‘Hey, even though I’ve been here before, and even though this is my ninth one, I’m still getting something out of it.’”
Amukamara talks like a grad student of the game, as happy to discuss the intricacies of coverage as the nature of contract negotiations. He sees training camp as a place where growth is possible for even the most senior members of the team.
He’s found an ideal mentor in new secondary coach Deshea Townsend.
“I feel like I’m learning a lot of ball every year,” said Amukamara. “Especially with the addition of coach Deshea. I mean, him being a former player and having him as a coach, and seeing the game through his lens now.”
Townsend, who spent 13 seasons as a cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts, has firsthand knowledge of what it takes for a cornerback to keep his edge into his 30s. Amukamara has taken particular interest in his new position coach’s understanding of health and aging.
Townsend replaced Ed Donatell, who followed former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to Denver. Amukamara credits Donatell with improving his ball skills and ability to read routes during his first two years in Chicago. The improvements helped Amukamara to have one of the most productive seasons of his career in 2018 when he started 15 games and pulled in three interceptions, which matched his career high.
Last season, he made news by setting a high goal for interceptions, though he ultimately fell short. He joked that he might need to aim higher.
“I said 10 last year,” said Amukamara, “and I tied my career high. So, that was great, and now I should say, like, 20 or something.”
“For me, I don’t think it’s about incorporating it into my life. I feel like it is my life, so that’s the lens and how I see everything and go about work or go about being a husband or go about being a father. So it kind of reflects and touches all parts of my life. Every day I wake up, I mean, I always start out with a prayer or something like that or listen to my favorite all-time band, Hillsong [Worship], a Christian band, and, yeah, I feel like that starts my day off pretty good. And then there are a lot of believers on the team, and we always engage in conversations.”
“I believe that’s what we’re called to do. I know the verse or the saying, ‘To whom much is given, much is required from.’ And so I truly believe that. I know that everything that’s happened to me, it’s not for me. It’s so that Jesus can impact people through me. And so that’s how I try to live my life.”