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Graves High assistant Kamalie Matthews transforms late football start into college degree, coaching, NFL dreams

Kamalie (pronounced kuh-MALL-ee) Matthews never dreamed football would be a part of his life. When he finally decided to pursue it, he had a rocky start. Now, he's working as an assistant coach and teaching assistant at Graves County High School and hoping to get a call to the National Football League!

"I was born in St. Croix, the Virgin Islands, but I grew up in Lithona, Ga., a suburb east of Atlanta. I was a basketball player up through the 11th grade," he recalled recently. "That's when I decided to try and played high school football for a year and a half. I didn't have any major scholarships, so I decided to go the junior college route at Hutchison (Kan.) Community College. From there, I played with some great players, including Cordell Patterson, who plays for the Minnesota Vikings; Marcus Golden, who played college ball for Mizzou; he plays for the Arizona Cardinals now, and the list goes on.

"I really wasn't good enough to make the eight-man roster of out-of-state players. There were amazing players everywhere. The team was top-ranked in the nation and never dropped below No. 5," he explained.

"I'm 6-feet, 3-inches tall. For football, I had some speed and could catch the ball. So, I was a wide receiver and a tight end. I actually was scrawny, tall, and lanky, so I had to build up muscle. I started eating good and bulked up. They put me at defensive end. I hit about 275 pounds and they put me at defensive tackle.

"Even though I didn't play in junior college, Murray State found out about me off a practice film," he continued. "They wanted me to play defensive tackle. They noticed I had good footwork and athletic skills, especially for my size, at 325 pounds. They lost a player to the pros there and so they put me on offense. From there, the ball started rolling.

"I played three years at Murray State. I started six games at defensive tackle the first year. They moved me to offensive tackle the next two years and I started every game. I completed a Bachelor of Integrated Studies degree. I finished school as a junior in 2013 and still had eligibility to play in college another year. I was able to get NFL scouts to look at me. They asked if I could play center and my response was 'yes,' even though I'd never snapped a ball in my life!

"Pro Day is a lesser level of the NFL Combine they do at your school to test your football skills, based on your position," he said. "As a center, they wanted to see how well I could snap the ball, run, that kind of thing. I worked on preparing for the pro scouts from December 2014 through June 2015." That led to Matthews' invitation to attend the training camp of the Seattle Seahawks this past summer. (At right, Matthews, No. 64, at Seahawks training camp)

"Oh, man, it was great!" he said with a smile. "The first person I saw there was Russell Wilson, the Super Bowl champion quarterback. I shook his hand and he was great! He was real excited to see the rookies. He led the team to win the Super Bowl in 2014 and then they went back and nearly won again last year.

"I was there for the rookie mini-camp that lasted four days. From there, they say if they want you, they'll call. I'm still on a reserve list, but I'm a free agent. My agent is talking to people from other teams and there are other teams now that I'm on the reserve list for also. Her name is Tracy Austin. There's only so much she can do, since teams already have their drafts picks.

"I just have to be ready at any given moment," Matthews continued. "Brendon Carroll, the son of and assistant to Pete Carroll, the head coach of the Seahawks, told me, 'With your athleticism and size, I have no doubt that you could play anywhere in the NFL.' He said, 'Just keep in shape and stay healthy.' That made me feel good.

"My girlfriend, Courtney Jackson, lives in Mayfield," Matthews said. "I met her at Murray State." So, he moved to Mayfield and is working as an assistant coach for the GCHS football team and teaching assistant, working with special education students.

"We want high character coaches and Kamalie certainly brings that to the table," said Graves head coach Lance Gregory. "He does a great job in the classroom, too."

Senior Christian Girley plays defensive end and offensive tackle. "When I first heard he had been in a pro camp, I didn't believe it. Then, when I saw him it made sense," Girley explained. "He was telling us about all the people he met there. It's inspiring, for real. It makes you want to play better so you might have a shot. He's one of the most enthusiastic people I know. He's always got energy. When he talks, it really gets through to you."

"Just working with special education is a blessing," Matthews said. "I look at the students' challenges and I think that I shouldn't be stressing or worrying about anything because here they are giving full effort in everything that they do. I like working in special education. These students inspire me."

He concluded, "I am a person of faith, a Christian, and I believe that what you do now will always affect your future. I want to let people know that I was a kid who didn't have much and I was in your shoes, but if you make the most of what you have, you can get to a better place. I never thought I'd be somebody's role model! I just think I'm blessed and honored!"

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