ALBANY. Albany Empire lineman Brandon Cesay lives in Atlanta but considers Albany his second home.

Sesai has been playing for the Albany Empire since 2018, when the team started out as a member of the Arena Football League.

“The other day I was telling my buddies, ‘For me, it’s not fans, it’s family.’ These people have actually watched me grow and I have actually watched them grow. I saw how the kids turn into schoolchildren, ”Cisey said.

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

Apart from the Empire’s loss to San Antonio on June 11, Cece has two tackles, one sack and two block kicks this season. (Game statistics as of June 11 are not available.)

“Things happened when I could come here and do my part and it was a hit and I fell in love with it. And now it feels like a home (away) from home,” Cesay said.

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

Cesay’s stay at Albany is a rarity in a sport where players tend to move from team to team. Including Sesay, four players from last year’s Empire roster started the season this year.

While each Empire team had its own flair, the team’s ability to get along was constant.

“Everyone is different, but at the same time, camaraderie is the main key,” Cesay said. “No one should walk on eggshells.”

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

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

Although his grandfather did not directly lead him into football, “he supported me in this. Moreover, whatever I want to do, make sure that I do it with full force, 100 percent, ”Cisei said.

The Empire is currently on a three-game losing streak, though Sisei called it a “learning streak”.

Albany lost twice to No. 1 Carolina Cobras and once to San Antonio, giving the Shooters their first win of the season. The Empire are in third place, polygames behind the Columbus Lions, who they face on Sunday.

“There are a lot of unfinished business, things we can do better at, little things that make great teams great,” Cesay said.

The Empire’s last win came against the Lions, 39-31, away in May, but Columbus has only lost once since then and beat the Cobras two weeks ago.

“You have to be in this moment and locked up with your brothers and we have to do our job,” Cesay said of Sunday’s game.

As the longest-serving member of the Empire, Cece also makes it his duty to bring his new teammates into the Albany fold.

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

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