Every year, a relatively small, select group of young men gain entry into one of the four predominant sports leagues in the country. While the number varies by league, the criteria to become an athlete in one of these leagues are virtually identical across the four sports in question: you must be the best of the best and always willing to work harder than anyone else on the court or field, dedicating your entire life to your respective sport in pursuit of your goals. The select individuals who do follow this path are rewarded with a spot on the roster of one of the multi-billion dollar teams at the heart of these leagues and become a part of one of the most lucrative industries in all of the American culture, reaping the benefits of the countless hours of hard work they have put in over the years. Recently we got the chance to sit down with one of these esteemed young men. Let us do the honor of introducing you to Samuel Kamara , an up-and-coming linebacker on the NFL’s Chicago Bears, and discuss his cultural background, his journey into the world of sports, and what it's like being a member of the National Football League and virtually everything in-between.
Standing at 6’ 2” and 288 pounds, Kamara certainly passes the eye test of what you expect an NFL player to look like. It wasn’t on the football field where his journey began: “Crazy enough... I never really wanted to play football at first, I played baseball when I was younger“ he said, adding that he was a “little chubby kid” and, upon first attempting to play in fourth grade, didn’t immediately fall in love with football. It was a few years later in eighth grade when he discovered his love of the sport, making a big play during a neighborhood game in his and hitting “the real good kid in our school” only to hear all the other children begin to exclaim “Sam, you should play football!” As the saying goes, from there the rest was history; Kamara would go on to play high school football at Carteret High in NJ where he would put his versatility on full display by playing on both sides of the ball at both linebacker and fullback. He acknowledged the advantage this gave him because “it gave [him] more film” but also admitted that he was “overlooked in high school,” and that is made especially evident by the fact that, despite his versatility, he didn’t receive a star rating as most high school recruits do.
While some athletes may be a bit deterred by the lack of recognition, Sam certainly wasn’t. Instead, he highlighted the fact that it “left a chip on [his] shoulder” that, in his mind, compelled him to “keep excelling, keep excelling, keep getting better because there was obviously something they didn’t see and I made sure they would see it no matter where I went.” The rating that scouts give you doesn’t definitively determine the number of schools nor the caliber of schools that would be willing to offer an athlete a scholarship, they certainly play a substantial role and most athletes in Kamara’s position would’ve been severely disadvantaged. Remaining steadfast in his pursuit would ultimately pay off tremendously in his junior and senior years of high school when offers began rolling in, and he would end up deciding rather quickly to attend Stony Brook University.
“A couple schools offered me, the big schools, Pitt offered me to be a walk-on, Michigan wanted me to be a walk-on, but I didn’t want to give up that opportunity… for a scholarship on a hope and dream,” Sam said when asked about his recruiting experience as a high school athlete, adding that Stony Brook “felt like home” almost immediately. “It wasn’t too far from my home but it was far enough that I could grow and be my own person… going through those college struggles, and as soon as I got there every open-armed welcomed me. The players, when I met them, when I engaged with everybody it was like I knew them for years and I only knew them for like a couple hours… I just felt like that's where I had to be. ” It looks like that feeling he had was right because his impact was felt virtually as soon as he stepped on the field his freshman year when he appeared in eight games and recorded nine tackles. This would only be the beginning of his stint at Stony Brook where he would go on to play for the next five years, receiving an NCAA exemption to play a fifth year following a season-ending shoulder injury the year prior, and would be named one of the team’s three defensive captains before his senior year. When asked about the differences between high school and college football, Sam’s sentiments echoed those of many other players who have also successfully made the transition: “Its just a little bit faster… everybody was a little bit quick, I was fast in high school but in college, everyone's faster. I just had to pick up to the speed… and for the kids, any of the kids making that transition, be ready to work.” Sam credits his heritage, he is incredibly proud of his African descent and makes it evident on his Instagram account, for the remarkable work ethic he has garnered thus far in his life and thanks to his mother for instilling it in him: “Discipline is all we know in here…anyone with a foreign parent understands. Ain’t no games in that household…you’re gonna try to be the best at what you do.”
In hindsight, while the end of Sam’s college career was a little typical, he doesn’t regret anything that happened. “At first I thought it would impact me tremendously, but then, in the grand scheme of it, it wasn't really bad,” Sam said when asked about the impact his shoulder injury and COVID-19 had upon his transition to the NFL “Rather than me doing combine drills, like running 40’s and doing drills, they got to actually see my how I really play. It's like they’re watching very fresh film… I would take that spring season over the drills and everything if I’m being honest with you.” Kamara clearly wasn’t going to let a small hurdle get in the way of his goals, and even when he went undrafted, he retained that aforementioned chip on his shoulder as well as a positive attitude that things would ultimately work out in the end. “I felt like once I got a team to look at me, all I needed was a foot in the door… even when I got hurt I just kept working, kept working, kept working, My strength coach was like ‘bro, you’re in a sling, you shouldn’t even be in the weight room’ but I’m like ‘I gotta keep working, if one arm is down I gotta keep the other one strong.’” He would do exactly that in Chicago when the Bears elected to bring him in for a workout following the draft, with the Miami Dolphins also showing an interest in him before he ultimately signed in Chicago, and signed Sam to his first official NFL contract.
Similar to Stony Brook, Kamara would appear in eight games his first season with the Chicago Bears during his freshman season and record a total of ten tackles. While he is still trying to carve out a lane for himself as his career progresses, He has achieved his goal of making it to the NFL and is on the path to greatness one game at a time. It is difficult to imagine someone with as positive a mindset as Sam’s not reaching his goals, and that is made abundantly evident by the success Sam has seen at every level of his career thus far. The sky's the limit for Sam Kamara and we here at WAJ Sports are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to speak with him and equally as eager to see what is yet to come in his budding career as an athlete in the NFL.
Written by: Gavin Saxon