It’s mid-January, five days after the Chargers announced their move to Los Angeles, and Joey Bosa stands backstage with Philip Rivers in a studio off Hollywood Boulevard, waiting for Jimmy Kimmel to introduce them. The two Chargers’ stars are here for a brief segment in which they’ll be “sworn in” as L.A. football players over a pair of women’s yoga pants. But the thought of even a few minutes under the late-night lights has Bosa feeling tense.
Some budding NFL stars might relish this experience, quipping with Kimmel, basking in the prospect of viral fame. It’s a lay-up for any athlete looking to up his celebrity profile in a city of relentless fame-seeking. But for Bosa, the 22-year-old, quarterback-terrorizing face of the new Los Angeles Chargers, this is not exactly his idea of fun.
The night before, he tried to back out. The Chargers media staff, knowing the team needed some positive publicity in its new market, had to coax him into it. You could meet Vin Diesel, they told him. Truth is Bosa, a Sunday action hero in his own right, couldn’t care less. Not out of disrespect for the Fast and Furious star, but, as friends and family will tell you, because it is decidedly not Joey to seek celebrity or willingly position himself front and center in this fishbowl of newfound fame. He came out of duty to the team, and that’s it. If it were up to him, Bosa would rather retreat from the inevitability of his own stardom. But again, it comes calling.
“Please welcome,” Kimmel announces, “from the new L.A. Chargers, quarterback Philip Rivers and rookie of the year Joey Bosa.”
As he strolls toward Kimmel at center stage, Bosa looks the part of Hollywood star athlete. Tailored navy suit over impossibly broad shoulders. No tie, top button undone. Hair coiffed. He trails Rivers, who, in blue jeans with a giant belt buckle, doesn’t quite fit that bill. But where Rivers stands at ease in the limelight, Bosa is visibly uncomfortable. He sways back and forth, fidgeting with his hands before anchoring them in his pockets. He fires off a few witty retorts — like how he’s not a fan of avocado — but, for the most part, Kimmel talks over him or the audience drowns him out.
Bosa has never enjoyed speaking in front of crowds. At Ohio State, where he became the centerpiece of a national championship defense, striking fear into the hearts of quarterbacks across college football, class presentations filled the three-time All-American with…