Born: September 6, 1985
Town: Jersey City
Robert Earnest Ayers Jr, was born September 6, 1985 in Jersey City. Robert attended Catholic school and played youth league football until high school, when his family moved to South Carolina. There he sprouted t 6’3” and starred for Marlboro County High School as a linebacker and a sprinter. Robert was All-State in 2003 as a senior and was recruited by several top college football programs. He accepted a scholarship from Tennessee.
Robert packed on 50 pounds of mostly muscle with the Vols, who moved him to the defensive line. After red-shirting in 2004, he spent three years as a pass-rushing specialist before ascending to the starting lineup as a senior in 2008. He terrorized enemy backfields, recording 15.5 tackles for a loss and flushing the quarterback out of the pocket time and again. Robert was the lone standout in a rag-tag 5–7 season, but he showed enough to put him on the radar of NFL scouts. The Denver Broncos grabbed him in the first round with the 18th overall pick. He was the only Tennessee senior selected in the draft.
The Broncos moved Robert back to linebacker, and he became a starter in his second season. He did not excel in this role and was moved back to defensive end in 2011. He swapped his #56 jersey for his old college number (91) and had a solid season playing opposite Elvis Dumervill. Denver won the division and beat the Steelers in a thrilling playoff game, but fell to the Patriots he following week. Robert returned to a reserve role in 2012 and 2013, as he played out his contract with the Broncos and became a free agent.
Before he did, however, he was a member of the Denver team that reached Super Bowl XLVIII. The game was played in the Meadowlands, which gave Robert a chance to go back and visit his old school, Sacred Heart in Jersey City with teammates Knowshon Moreno and Mike Adams in tow. The trio helped distribute winter coats as part of the Coats for Kids program.
The New York Giants signed Robert to a two-year contract for the 2014 season. He played well in a reserve role his first year and won a starting job in 2015. He recorded a career-best 9.0 sacks and forced a pair of fumbles for an otherwise atrocious defense. After the season, the Giants invested in a group of new defensive players and let Robert walk. He signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In his first season with the Bucs, Robert served as the elder statesman on a solid defensive line that included William Gholston, Clinton McDonald and Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy. After a bad midseason loss to the Falcons, Robert gathered the team and delivered an obscenity-laced locker room speech that shook things up and triggered the Bucs’ longest winning streak of the season. Tampa Bay finished 9–7—their best record since 2010—but missed out on a Wild Card playoff slot.