After four seasons, Empire lineman Brandon Sesay considers Albany home away from home

timesunion.com 10 days ago

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Albany Empire's Brandon Sesay, left, runs through drills with his teammates during practice at MVP Arena on June 8, 2022. He said camaraderie has been a constant with the Empire in his four seasons here.
1of3 Albany Empire's Brandon Sesay, left, runs through drills with his teammates during practice at MVP Arena on June 8, 2022. He said camaraderie has been a constant with the Empire in his four seasons here.Show MoreShow Less

ALBANY — Albany Empire lineman Brandon Sesay lives in Atlanta, but considers Albany a second home.

Sesay has played for the Albany Empire since 2018, when the team started as a member of the Arena Football League.

“I was telling my buddies the other day, I was saying ‘It’s not fans to me, it’s a family.’ These people actually watched me grow, and I’ve actually watched them grow as well. I’ve seen toddlers turn into grade school kids,” Sesay said.

In 2018, Sesay helped the Empire to the regular-season AFL title and returned in 2019 when the Empire won the AFL championship. After the Empire joined the National Arena League in 2021 (there was no Empire in 2020), Sesay joined up for a playoff run, and the team won another championship.

Excluding the Empire’s loss to San Antonio on June 11, Sesay has two tackles, a sack and two blocked kicks this season. (Stats from the June 11 game are not available.)

“Things happened where I was able to come here and contribute, and it was a hit, and I fell in love with it. And now it’s like a home (away) from home,” Sesay said.

What keeps him coming back is “just the genuine love from the fans,” he said. “When I was a young kid … it was all about family, and just being around good people. And who doesn’t want to play football?”

Sesay’s tenure in Albany is something of a rarity in a sport in which players tend to bounce from team to team. Including Sesay, four players from last year’s Empire roster started the season this year.

Though each Empire team has had its own flavor, the ability of the team to get along has been a constant.

“Everybody’s different, but at the same time, camaraderie is a major key,” Sesay said. “Nobody should be walking on eggshells.” 

Sesay’s family comes up from Georgia to watch him play around five times a year, though COVID-19 has made travel difficult. One of the most influential people in Sesay’s life, his grandfather, died before he joined the Empire, but Sesay said “I can feel him every day.”

“My late grandfather always taught me how to be humble,” he said. “Meant a lot to me. Just showed me everything about being disciplined, being the team.”

Though his grandfather didn’t get him into football directly, “he supported me on it. It was moreso, whatever I did want to do, make sure I do it to my full ability, 100 percent,” Sesay said.

The Empire are currently on a three-game losing streak, though Sesay referred to it as a “learning streak.”

Albany lost twice to the first-place Carolina Cobras and once to San Antonio, giving the Gunslingers their first win of the season. The Empire are in third place, a half-game behind the Columbus Lions, whom they face on Sunday.

“There’s a lot of missed assignments, things that we can get better at, little things that make great teams great,” Sesay said. 

The Empire’s last victory came over the Lions, 39-31, on the road in May, but Columbus has lost just once since then and beat the Cobras two weeks ago.

“You got to be in that moment and be locked in with your brothers and we have to get a job done,” Sesay said of Sunday’s game.

As the Empire’s longest-tenured member, Sesay also considers it part of his duty to bring his new teammates into the Albany fold. 

“Just building that relationship with the family out here, the Empire family, is just one of those things that I always want to share with the guys,” he said.