“It takes persistency to be an American Ninja Warrior,” says Akbar Gbajabiamila

Gbajabiamila, whose parents hail from Nigeria, played for the Oakland Raiders, the San Diego Chargers and the Miami Dolphins before retiring from football in 2008.

Co-host Akbar Gbajabiamila

The Southern California native who parlayed a five-year stint in the National Football League into a career in television, co-hosts NBC’s obstacle course competition series “American Ninja Warrior.”

An action-packed series, it follows competitors as they tackle a set of challenging obstacle courses in both city qualifying and city finals rounds across the country. Successful competitors then move on to the national finals round, where they face a four-stage course modeled after the famed Mt. Midoriyama course in Japan. The prize at stake is $1,000,000. Many have come close, but no competitor has yet to achieve total victory and claim the prize.

Akbar Gbajabiamila  poses with students from his former high school Crenshaw High

Now in its seventh season, more than 700 contestants tested their skills on several obstacles that calls upon a competitor’s endurance, balance and upper body and grip strength, but only 100 were selected.

“We had 90 people who completed the finals and 10 that were wild cards so we had a total of 100 compete and all of them went through stage one, stage two and three. Four is going to be one big finale. It takes strength and training, but you also have to have a passion for it,” says Gbajabiamila, who will admit there are several obstacles he’s yet to try out. “Everybody knows I can be an America Ninja Warrior, but there are some obstacles that are even challenging for me as I am 265 pounds. I have tried a lot of these different obstacles as I want to know what these Ninjas are feeling  and anticipating.”

Gbajabiamila, whose parents hail from Nigeria, played for the Oakland Raiders, the San Diego Chargers and the Miami Dolphins before retiring from football in 2008.

“It is the hardest obstacle course in the world and you have ordinary people doing an extraordinary thing who want to win a million dollars, which is life changing money.  I genuinely cheer for every single one.”

Based on the global hit “Sasuke” from Tokyo Broadcasting System Television, the original series is now in its 31st season in Japan. To date, only three contestants have completed the Japanese course.

“American Ninja Warrior” which returns for a finale season this summer on NBC is co hosted by Matt Iseman, Kristine Leahy and Ghajabiamila.

The season finale will air on NBC Monday, September 14.

(Pictured: Akbar Ghajabiamila with students from his former high school Crenshaw High at a special “America Ninja Warrior” screening in Los Angeles – photo by Royalty Image)

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