View Full Version : Not to be outdone ... Kiwanuka story

Mr. Laz
04-20-2006, 09:58 AM
The goal is set in ink
NFL draft prospect: Kiwanuka wears his feelings on his back

The Kansas City Star
The 5-inch tattoo emblazoned on his back serves as a daily reminder for Boston College defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka.

The tattoo — the presidential seal of Uganda — connects Kiwanuka with his grandfather, Benedicto Kiwanuka, who was elected Uganda’s first prime minister in 1961 but was tortured and assassinated in 1972 by Idi Amin’s forces. And the tattoo motivates Kiwanuka to want to help Uganda in any way he can, be it through economics or politics.

Kiwanuka, a 6-foot-5, 262-pounder who has drawn comparisons to Philadelphia’s Jevon Kearse as a pass rusher, is expected to be a first-round pick in next week’s NFL draft. With the big money a first-round pick can command, Kiwanuka realizes he can do a world of good a half a world away.

“Upholding my family tradition is extremely important not just to me, but everyone in my family,” said Kiwanuka, whose dorm room at Boston College is decorated with Ugandan flags. “It’s something we take a lot of pride in.”

Kiwanuka’s grandfather was killed 11 years before Mathias was born, and his parents fled to the United States separately and met through a mutual friend. Kiwanuka was born and raised in Indianapolis, but many of his relatives remain in Uganda. He visited the east African country as a third-grader. The trip left a lifelong impression.

“It was truly a homecoming for me,” Kiwanuka said. “A lot of people feel like Africa is their home. For me, there’s an added sense of that just because both of my parents were born there, most of my cousins and aunts and uncles still live there. Both my father and mother come from large families. My mother is one of 16, my father is one of 12.

“You hear a lot about poverty on TV, but when it’s our cousin or uncle living in those conditions, it takes you back.”

Before leaving for the trip to Uganda, Kiwanuka’s mother, Deodata, gave each of her three children $100 to spend at a candy store but then confiscated the goodies. The next time Mathias saw the candy, his mother was giving it to children in Uganda.

Lesson learned.

“I hope to go back to Uganda and see what exactly the country needs the most, what way I can help,” Kiwanuka said. “There’s got to be a reason God put me in the position I am in.”

His relatives in Uganda are beginning to grasp Kiwanuka’s level of celebrity as a first-team All-America football player.

“They definitely understand what’s going on,” he said. “I don’t think they understand American football completely, but they understand I’ve had a lot of success. I’m concerned about my grandmother. She’s kind of ill right now, and we’re trying to get her to the U.S., but we’re having problems getting visas and those things.”

Kiwanuka was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 after posting 11.5 sacks for the second straight year to go with 24.5 tackles for losses, and two interceptions, including one for a 32-yard touchdown return against Rutgers.

As a fourth-year junior, he seriously considered entering the draft last year but decided to stay in school as Boston College moved to the Atlantic Coast Conference. He recorded 9.5 sacks in 11 games for the Eagles despite sustaining a right medial collateral ligament sprain when chop-blocked by Virginia’s Brad Butler.

Kiwanuka was ejected from that game after another clash with Butler, and he missed one game and was less than full speed in subsequent games because of knee and ankle injuries.

“There were ups and downs, and I learned a lot about myself as far as injuries and how I recover from injuries,” Kiwanuka said. “That’s one of the biggest things I learned this year — how to play through an injury and play hurt. I was fortunate to go four years without even missing a practice due to an injury to, as a fifth-year senior, suffering through an injury and having weeks where I couldn’t practice, but still had to perform on the field.”

Kiwanuka, who already had received his degree in psychology, took graduate-school classes last fall and has no regrets about staying for his fifth, senior season.

“Looking back I felt like there were some things I still had left to do in college football,” he said. “There were questions of whether I could play against the run, and I feel games like Florida State may have answered that question a little. For the most part, it was about me maturing as a person. When I closed my eyes at night I felt there were still things I needed to do in college.

“If I had come out, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be elected captain a second time. And that was something that was very important to me. The guys I came in with in 2001, we all left together, those of us who did redshirt. It was important to finish what we started at BC.”

The only reason Kiwanuka was recruited by Boston College was the Eagles were scouting two other players from his two-time state championship team at Indianapolis Cathedral, including offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood, who also went to Boston College and could be a first-day draft pick.

“Coming out of high school, I weighed 195 pounds playing defensive end/linebacker,” Kiwanuka said. “Boston College thought I was an athletic kid, and they gave me a scholarship to see where I fit in. Putting my nose down and working, that embodies my family’s work ethic. You go out, do the best you can, believe in yourself, and hope things work out for the best, and they did.”

Kiwanuka finished his career as Boston College’s career sack leader with 37.5, and there are several NFL teams, including the Chiefs, who could use his ability to rush the passer.

“If ever you were going to take a chance on an individual,” Boston College coach Tom O’Brien said at the end of last season, “he’s the type of guy you’d want to take a chance on.”

NFL draft series
First in a series examining each position in the April 29-30 NFL draft

TODAY: Defensive linemen. NEXT: Kickers

Top five defensive linemen

Player School Ht. Wt. Comment
DE Mario Williams N.C. State 6-7 295 Best defensive player in the draft
DT Brodrick Bunkley Florida State 6-2 1/2 306 Made 25 tackles for losses in ’05
DT Haloti Ngata Oregon 6-4 338 Is he another Junior Siavii from Oregon?
DE Manny Lawson N.C. State 6-5 3/8 241 Had 10 sacks in Williams’ shadow
DE Kameron Wimbley Florida State 6-3 7/8 248 Wichita Northwest product

Big 12 prospects

DT Rodrique Wright Texas 6-5 1/8 300 Star’s Big 12 Defensive Player of Year
DT Dusty Dvoracek Oklahoma 6-2 3/4 306 Suspended for most of junior season
DE Charlton Keith Kansas 6-4 3/8 237 Can be a situational pass rusher
DT Le Kevin Smith Nebraska 6-2 7/8 316 Had infamous fumble after INT vs. Texas Tech
DT Titus Adams Nebraska 6-3 3/8 306 Can plug the middle as a run stopper

■ SLEEPER: Cal Poly’s Chris Gogong led Division I-AA with 23.5 sacks and succeeded teammate Jordan Beck as winner of the Buchanan Award as Division I-AA’s best defensive player.

■ FUN FACT: LSU tackle Kyle Williams sacked first-round NFL picks Ben Roethlisberger (Miami of Ohio/Pittsburgh Steelers) as a freshman; Eli Manning (Ole Miss/N.Y. Giants) as a sophomore; and Jason Campbell (Auburn/Washington) as a junior.

■ CHIEFS NEEDS: The Chiefs long for a pass-rushing end to complement Jared Allen and can use a run-stuffing tackle to succeed where Ryan Sims, Eddie Freeman and Junior Siavii have failed.

04-20-2006, 10:09 AM
good read