ChiCitySports was able to interview former Chicago Bears pro bowl returner Jerry Azumah. Jerry “Zoom” Azumah was selected by the Chicago Bears with the 14th pick in the fifth round of the 1999 NFL Draft. He played his college ball at the University of New Hampshire.
Azumah is remembered for his break out season in 2003 when he led the league in kick returns, averaging 29.0 YPR with two touchdowns. He was selected to the 2004 Pro Bowl team as a returner.
Azumah had to cut his career short due to hip and neck pain and retired on March 23rd, 2006. He retired at the age of 28 and was succeeded by a familiar name to current Bear fans, a fellow named Devin Hester.
I want to thank Jerry for taking the time to answer these questions for Chicago fans.
CCS: If you could pick out one memorable play in your career, what would it be any why was it of importance to you?
Jerry Azumah: I picked off McNabb in a playoff game and scored the last touchdown in the old soldier field.
CCS: When you received word that you were selected to the Pro Bowl in 2004, what thoughts crossed your mind initially?
Jerry Azumah: I was blown away over the fact that I was selected by my peers, coaches and fans to play in a game that was the best of the best in the NFL.
CCS: You were forced to retire early due to hip and neck pain after just 7 seasons, how hard of a decision was this to step away from the game you love?
Jerry Azumah: Everyone at one point will have to walk away from the game. No one plays forever. My health is the most important thing. I have a life time ahead of me and I want to maintain a healthy life style for my future ahead. So with that being said it wasn’t a very difficult decision. I played 7 great seasons and have been truly blessed.
CCS: You were succeeded by Devin Hester who took up return duties and also your number. After a great rookie and sophomore season, Devin has hit a slump. What do you think this can be attributed to? Is his play at WR affecting his return game?
Jerry Azumah: Hester is a dynamic talent. His role has been upgraded in the offense so therefor his role on special teams has changed. What he did his 1st two years was special and hasn’t been done in NFL history. We are a little spoiled by his early success. But remember this is the NFL and these are great professional athletes and coaches. Teams do everything to try to minimize him and limit his opportunities because they know just how great he is. No one kicks the ball straight to him anymore and they never will. I wouldn’t call it a slump. Teams are just game planning against him and minimizing his opportunities.
CCS: What is the most difficult part of returning and fielding kicks and punts? Did you prefer one over the other (Kick Return or Punt Return).
Jerry Azumah: The difficult part was actually catching the ball. You have to do that 1st before anything. When the weather gets bad it especially makes it difficult to catch and field the ball.
CCS: Of the Bears additions to the team this off-season, who do you think will have the biggest impact?
Jerry Azumah: Peppers, Chris Harris, Chester Taylor. They all will be special impact players.
CCS: Chicago has always had a sound defense but struggled on the offensive side of the ball, this off-season the team has brought in Mike Martz. Do you think he will be able to restore the Chicago Bears offense behind Jay Cutler?
Jerry Azumah: New offenses,especially complicated ones take time to really work right and get everyone on the same page. The offense has a lot of talent. It’s up to them to gel and work as a complete unit. There is no doubt in my mind that this offense with its players can be dynamic and explosive.
CCS: What is your favorite experience in your 7 seasons with the Chicago Bears?
Jerry Azumah: Playing for a team that was my favorite since I was a little kid. Also playing with and amongst top pro athletes was a dream come true. But to top it all off was being selected to play in the pro bowl against the best of the best!
CCS: Thank you for answering these questions about your playing days. Football aside, what are you up to these days as a person? From your site we see you do a lot of charity work, can you elaborate on that?
Jerry Azumah: I believe in giving back. So many people and so much help has been given to me to achieve success and the position that I’m in now that I want to help the next person achieve their dreams.