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Lights, camera, Abdullah: Raiders RB nurtures off-field passion

Ameer Abdullah plays running back for the Raiders — and a character who’s “like deeply, deeply Southern” the moment he leaves the team’s practice facility or Allegiant Stadium.

“All day, every day,” said Abdullah, sans the accent he privately practices. “My dialect. My mindset. Thinking how they think.”

Acting how they act.

Abdullah is making a foray into film and television as a producer, screenwriter and actor away from the field. He’s channelling the focus and work ethic that’s powered him through nine NFL seasons into his pursuit of another passion. The website IMDB credits the 30-year-old as a producer for three projects — including “Hell on the Border” on Amazon Prime — and an actor for a fourth.

He owns a production company, Creative House, through which he wrote, directed and co-starred in an 11-minute short film, “Joshua Tree.”

Abdullah said he’s in the midst of writing other scripts and screenplays as well. He meets virtually every Tuesday — the lone day off for NFL players during the season — with a team of collaborators he’s assembled throughout his career.

“As athletes sometimes, transitioning to the film space, we can kind of get put into a box of like the ‘Take-your-shirt-off guy,’ ” said Abdullah, who has taken acting classes since the beginning of last year.

“I’m serious about getting better and acting. I don’t want to be the cameo guy, the ‘football guy on screen.’ I want it to be taken more seriously.”

Discovering a muse

Abdullah’s fascination with film began in his hometown of Homewood, Alabama.

That’s where he first was interested in photography, acquiring a camera when he was 14 years old. He’d fill the black Sony’s memory card with photographs he’d take during 7-on-7 passing leagues. He captured the signs of opposing schools and turn those images into a collage.

Abdullah upgraded his camera when he played collegiately at Nebraska. He held photo shoots with teammates and friends and documented his travels.

That led him to what came next.

“I was just talking to a couple homies and they always felt I had the gift of gab … and I was like, ‘You know what, I’ve always enjoyed being a camera operator,’ ” Abdullah said. “What would it be like as someone who’s directing or writing the story and not always being behind the camera?”

Abdullah started to study in Detroit after being drafted by the Lions in 2015.

He read a book about screenwriting by Blake Snyder called “Save the Cat!” He began formulating his own scripts and stories. He also modeled for Urban Outfitters during his Lions tenure, learning the subtleties of lighting along the way.

His education evolved in Minnesota, where he played four seasons for the Vikings. In 2019, Abdullah met Uzoma Obasi, a producer, director and photographer from Minneapolis. Obasi helped fortify Abdullah’s creative vision.

They became fast friends, exchanging ideas and bonding over the technical and creative aspects of filmmaking.

“He’s definitely not the stereotype you’d expect when it comes to who an NFL player is,” said Obasi, a partner in Abdullah’s production company and one of his co-writers.

“I don’t think he gets enough credit for how creative he really is.”

The method to the madness

Abdullah has long fancied animated adult sitcoms like “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” or mockumentary comedies like “The Office.” He’s co-writing an animated adult sitcom with his brother, Kareem, a sound engineer in Los Angeles with extensive connections in entertainment.

The elder Abdullah, four years Ameer’s senior, said creativity is “very natural” for his younger brother. Casual phone conversations about family and football morph into storyboarding sessions filled with a seemingly endless stream of ideas.

Similar chats happen regularly with Obasi, who came to Las Vegas this season to attend a Raiders game.

Together, Abdullah and Obasi will travel to isolated locations to eliminate distractions as they brainstorm. They made their short film in Joshua Tree National Park in California. They’ve also been to Vancouver Island off the Canadian coast and Isla Mujeres in Mexico.

Abdullah gained addition perspective when he was an intern for a week last offseason with Hidden Empire Film Group.

“I’ve been a writer’s assistant. I’ve been on set giving people coffee,” said Abdullah, adding that there’s four projects he plans to push this year.

“And now I’m in a place where I have capital. I can produce my own things.”

Abdullah can also act more, too. He can delve deeper into the characters he loves to create. He often goes through different accents and personas when talking to Kareem as a casual way to practice.

A method actor, Ameer Abdullah said he’s playing the Southern man in one project and an undisclosed character in another that’s set to film this year. He politely declined to reveal any additional details.

Abdullah is excited about what the future could hold.

He’s gregarious and ambitious. Well-rounded and relatable.

Football is one passion. Now he’s beginning to explore another labor of love.

“It’s the subjectivity in film that I really enjoy,” Abdullah said. “And I think a lot of people are on so many unique journeys in life where they don’t learn their lesson until maybe 10 years later, or they learn a very hard lesson young. Displaying and expressing those stories is important so people can see themselves represented.”

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on X.

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