NAPA – Kelechi Osemele is a career-oriented fellow. Football was his sole focus the past decade as the offensive lineman worked tirelessly to turn physical gifts into an NFL career.
Everything else took a backseat. The sacrifice, it seems was worth it. Osemele has been named an All-Pro and a Pro Bowler. He won a Super Bowl and signed a record contract for his position group. All that in five whirlwind years.
This offseason, Osemele allowed himself to breathe. The 28-year wanted to get away, to experience something brand new by travelling to seven countries and six American cities this offseason. These escapades were largely spontaneous, a complete break from his decade focused solely on football.
"I travelled a lot as a kid so I knew I liked it, but once I signed my letter of intent at Iowa State, that was it. I had a narrow focus," Osemele said on NBC Sports California's Raiders Insider Podcast. "I was more worried about making the pros and paying off my mom's house. I wasn't thinking about travelling like most college kids are. I couldn't take a leap year. Between the summer workouts and the season, I was locked in. I was driven. It was all about my career at that point. Travelling abroad (as an adult) is always something I've wanted to do, and signing my new contract gave me the freedom to do something for myself."
Osemele planned a trip to Australia with then teammates Brynden Trawick and Taiwan Jones. They ended up in New Zealand and Thailand. His mates went home but Osemele continued on his own, finding adventure through the kindness of strangers and connections through social media. He ended up in Italy and England, Hawaii and Iceland and several beautiful spots across the continental United States.
He climbed a bridge, rode an elephant and jumped a rope on fire. He stood on glaciers and bathed in hot springs. He rafted through whitewater (his boat totally flipped), finding adventure at every turn. Bungee jumping off a perfectly good cliff, however, was his highlight. Watching that leap play out on social media made head coach Jack Del Rio's heart skip a beat, but it got Osemele's going like few other moments in life.
"Jumping off that cliff was one of the best adrenaline highs I've ever had," Osemele said. "It felt like my first NFL game. Having to hype yourself up to do something you've never done before was really cool. I had a two-day high off of that. I had so much energy I could barely sleep the night before.
"There were a lot of exciting things, and I've never felt that alive before. You can't mimic that. The only thing I can liken it to was the Super Bowl. It was that type of high, that type of adrenaline. It was an amazing feeling."
Osemele took long trips during dead periods and short ones during the offseason program. Despite his adventures, Osemele never broke his workout routine. Strength coach Joe Gomes stayed in contact, and gave him workout plans and gyms to use abroad four or five times per week.
"I liked being able to find out I could balance my life like that," Osemele said. "I felt like my first four years (in the NFL) was all work, to be honest. I was lifting 5-6 times a week. I would live in the facility. I've found having a work/life balance is a lot healthier for me."
Osemele got addicted to travel this spring, and plans to globe trot again next offseason. The first go-round was transformative, that gave him new perspective on life and renewed passion for his work by leaving comfort zones.
"It was about opening up your world," Osemele said. "I put myself in a completely different country, in settings I've never experienced before and just figure things out. It was a life-changing experience."
NOTE: This is but a sample from a longer, detailed conversation with Osemele. Listen to the full podcast right here and subscribe to the Raiders Insider Podcast on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher.