The Game of Football Gave Me Life

The game of football to many may look like a bunch of overgrown men running around in pads just trying to score a touch downtown but to me this game is life. Since I could remember as a kid I’ve always wanted to play football. I used to sit in my living room and watch the Redskins and the University of Maryland play any chance I got. My dad and uncles used to take me to Redskins park during training camp so I could see them practice. I remember watching Darrell Green run around thinking he was insanely fast. I grew up for a while idolizing LaVar Arrington for his play on the football field. I thought he was awesome and used to wear his jersey around everywhere.

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While the game has not always been good to me it has taught me more than anyone will ever know. Football is the ultimate team sport but it teaches you more about individuals than you would think. Trust in football is the #1 if you can’t trust the man next to you to do what he is supposed to do on every play how are you to trust him in life and vice versa.  Much of my success in business I could have never achieved without the lessons I have learned from the game because football brings together individuals from different walks of life together to accomplish one goal and business is the same way.

Football has also blessed me with putting several male figures in my life that have pushed man to become a better man. While my father was a great role model growing up, my coaches gave him great support. Enforcing what he was saying at home. My coaches growing up like Coach Ward, Kelly, Patterson and Gillespie to name a few all made sure I was always pushed.

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Down But Not Out

I went to one of the best high schools money could buy in Washington DC. However, my high school experience was far different than most. While I was often times extremely cocky, I was no different than your average high school football player who was destined to play for a D-1 University. My story is far more distinctive than most. In high school I often experienced bullying. However, my experiences with bullying further demonstrates what no child should have to go through.

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My senior year my life changed forever on a Friday afternoon at a pep rally on the football field. All faculty and staff were filing into the stands. It was the day before we were set to play against our crosstown rivals, Gonzaga. It was also my first game back after missing three games because of a high ankle sprain. As we walked in the announcer began to call out each of our names one by one. The seniors were last and I was the last of all the seniors to have my name called. As my name was called the entire school as well as my teammates booed me for what felt like 30 minutes. I have thought about this moment for a long time and the only rational explanation that I have come up with, is that many of those students worked their entire lives, and had been told that academics trumps everything and if you work hard enough in school you will get into whatever school you desire.

My circumstances were completely different, I wasn’t the best student but I excelled at football. While all of these students were waiting to get answers back from institutions and stressing about schools and what paths their lives were going to take, my life had already been decided. Outside of every class during the month of November my senior year college coaches lined the hallways to get five minutes of my time as I walked to my next class. Looking back on this now I would have hated me too. While others dedicated themselves to school I dedicated myself to the game of football and was rewarded. Every athlete in high school lives for the moment to be recognized in front of their entire school for his or her accomplishments their senior year. When that moment came for me, I truly believe those students let out their envy and frustrations towards me.  They were all laughing including coaches, teachers and administrators because that was the only way they knew how to accept my successes.  

The only person that wasn’t there for the joke was a lady named Ms. Younger. She looked at me and knew that inside it was eating me alive. After the event was over I played it off the best I could, even holding back tears. As I began to walk back to the locker room I remember looking at the ground to be sure no one could see the emotions on my face. Then one of my coaches said something to me as trivial as my beard not being trimmed and I retorted with a  sarcastic comment which resulted with me receiving detention. My head coach at the time endorsed his decision because of my “lack of respect”. At that moment all I was looking for was just the smallest sense of empathy like “Are you alright Kevin?”, and I couldn’t even get that.

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As I continued to walk off the field with my head down I heard a voice calling my name, it was Ms. Younger who was the school counselor, and most likely the sole person who helped me graduate from high school. As she walk towards me with her arms open she knew the pain I was experiencing. She gave me a quick hug and told me to come with her. Before letting me go she whispered in my ear “Don’t let them see you sweat.” Please explain to me why on that day, out of the 1,000 students in the stands, the 200 administrators, teachers and staff only one woman showed compassion at a place where the schools values are built off of respect and compassion? How is it that at a distinguished Lasallian school, something like this could happen?

Now don’t get me wrong I’ve been booed before. I’ve walked into stadiums  where 100,000 people will boo me just because of the jersey and school I attend, but I must ask, is this how people are suppose to treat one another? On that day I learned a valuable lesson of compassion and respect for others. I will never go out of my way to make someone’s life and living hell just because I’ve been through it and back. That day will forever be apart of me and in a funny way I’m appreciative that it happen because it has made me so much stronger.

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Does race really matter?

I walk this earth as a 6’3 300 pound African-American man from Silver Spring Maryland. I grew up in an area where you can look out the window and see people that represent all ends of this earth. However, throughout my entire life the one statement I have heard the most is “You’re not like the rest of them.” This statement really hits home for me. Anyone that knows me can tell you that I live my life completely independent of the African American stereotype. When I say this I mean the way I talk, carry myself, issues I that I deal with, and the way I react to things.  When I walk into a boardroom or just your average meeting the second I open my mouth people immediately recognize that I am different. I am a well educated black man, graduating from one of the best institutions in the world, UCLA. I am getting my MBA next year from University of Nevada, Reno. What most people don’t know is that I own several companies and have been recognized by several established online publications.  Aside from my unfaltering drive, where I come from gives me my unique edge on life. In my 24 years on this planet I have come to the conclusion that race matters.

In order to give you, my readers a better understanding of why the topic of race has had such an impact on me and shaped me let me give you some background stories. When I was in 8th grade my parents shipped me off to Randolph Macon Military Academy. This was one of the best things my parents could have ever done for me. The school was located in Front Royal Virginia. On a day in late February that year, my impression of the world that I lived in changed forever. I was on the school basketball team and we were playing in the middle school conference championship. I remember it being a close game, and highly competitive. However, what I remember clear as day from that game is when I was on the free throw line and someone screamed out the word “Nigger” as I shot my shot. This caught me completely off guard as well as several of my teammates.  Throughout the rest of that game I heard threats and the situation even escalated as the parents began to get into arguments in the stands . Can you imagine how it would feel to hear those words as a 13 year old boy? I began to understand the role that race played in society. I was raised with the knowledge to treat everyone as an equal and with respect, but that game changed me and my understanding of who it applied to.

Now lets fast forward to my sophmore year at UCLA. It is common for some football players and baseball players to work part time in the off season as security guards at fraternity parties. My friend from the baseball team was driving us back home from a job. On our way home, we stopped at a teammates place to pick something up. While in the driveway I noticed the muzzle of a gun sticking out of the side of a dumpster. I began to sink into the chair and try to get my friends attention, but he was on the phone. By the time I had gotten his attention we were being dragged out of the car at gunpoint by two cops and searched. We are two African American athletes who are educated, intelligent and had performed countless acts of community service, just minding our own business and suddenly being pulled out of our car by armed policemen and searched because we fit the description for “2 black guys wearing black T-Shirts”. Funny thing was our T-Shirts were red, and the car windows were tinted. So how could they have possibly known that. We eventually got forced apologies from the officers after their accidental mishap.  

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I know many of you may think that I must have done something wrong or that I dislike police officers, but no, I respect them for what they do. They make us all safer. I am telling you about my experience more so to open your eyes and say that two bad apples don’t spoil the bunch. At that moment, all those cops saw was two African American boys. They did not see two student-Athletes who attend UCLA, or how intelligent we were or any of our accomplishments. All they saw was our skin color. I have brought these two stories up because while these prejudiced things have happened to me throughout my life, I continue moving on.

I want people to understand both sides of my narrative. Although I may have suffered racism from caucasians, I have also suffered it from African American as well. I don’t always talk, act, or dress like your traditional African American. I’m different and I know that. I am treated differently and I understand that. When I get out of nice cars I often notice the way people look at me because maybe they don’t believe that I made my money in a legitimate fashion. The more and more successful I become, the more and more I will break down those stereotypes. Although these were abhorrent experiences, I am thankful for them and the understanding and wisdom that they have brought me.  I will continue through my life with my eyes wide open.

I walk this earth as a 6’3 300 pound African-American man. No matter where I go or what I accomplish I can tell you that race matters.

Follow me on Twitter @LifeofKM

Photo Credit: Steve Cheng