Contrary to what people believe, it is not just the football player’s lives that are affected by getting cut or making the team, but also the people pushing them to follow their dreams.
Anna Ucheomumu along with other player’s wives and girlfriends, sat and watched her boyfriend New England Patriots defensive lineman Ufomba Kamalu fight for a roster spot on one of the world’s most decorated franchises in the intense July heat.
“With his career it is a team effort,” Ucheomumu said. “It’s literally one of the biggest blessings of my life to see him do what he loves and this NFL life, people say it’s not for long, he’s not going to be playing this sport forever. It’s a blessing that he gets to play and do what he loves.”
Kamalu and Ucheomumu met in college at the University of Miami. He a football player and she a cheerleader. Early into getting to know each other, they made a startling discovery about one and other.
“What made it even more special is that we were both Nigerian,” Ucheomumu told Prime Time Sports Talk. “We just had a lot in common, we were friends for awhile and we had a very interesting relationship.”
Things escalated quickly between the two.
“When we first started dating, we started living together almost immediately,” Ucheomumu said. “We’ve been together ever since, he’s definitely my best friend and I don’t say that in the stereotypical way couples say it, because he is my best friend and I am blessed to be with him.”
Ucheomumu herself was a political science major in college.
“When you have African parents you’re either becoming a lawyer or a doctor,” Ucheomumu said with a laugh. “I’ve always pictured myself studying law but sometimes our lives are so intertwined and we’re so used to being together that it takes a little bit of sacrifice.”
At a younger age, she pictured her life a bit differently than what it is now.
“Looking back when I was a kid, I imagined myself being an attorney, single, just living my life,” Ucheomumu said. “Never in a million years you could have told me that I would grow up and be living this kind of lifestyle in the football world and I’m lucky enough that we both have our college degrees since Kamalu didn’t leave early for the NFL.”
Kamalu and Ucheomumu have been all around the country in their NFL journey. The couple moved to Texas when Kamalu was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Houston Texans in May of 2016. They were thrown a curveball when Kamalu was waived by the Texans on September 1, 2018.
24 days later, the couple found themselves in Phoenix when Kamalu was signed to the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad.
Just over a month later on October 30, the Cardinals waived Kamalu and he was signed to the New England Patriots’ practice squad.
There are no private jets nor were they provided a place to live right away. But the two never flinched.
“It is very difficult finding housing that can be very accommodating to the situation,” Ucheomumu said. “One thing that’s very admirable about [Ufomba] Kamalu is that you never see him break a sweat, he adjusts with ease.”
Ucheomumu recounted their transition from Houston to Arizona as an example of Kamalu’s toughness.
“When he got cut from the Texans and we had to move, before he got signed with the Cardinals, he had to take eight different flights to eight different teams to workout,” Ucheomumu said. “Not one complaint, if he was frustrated, he never let me know so when it comes to moving at the drop of the hat, we just take it all in stride.”
Ucheomumu praised Kamalu’s admirable traits of calmness and collectiveness.
“One of his great qualities is that he is always cool under pressure,” Ucheomumu said. “Whatever needs to get done, always gets done so whether it’s frustrating or not, things get done and we keep moving.”
There’s a lot of money to be made in football and many women may think it is a glamorous lifestyle being an NFL spouse or girlfriend. Ucheomumu begs to differ.
“The short answer is no,” Ucheomumu laughed. “What you see on T.V. is not even real, the women that do live [the glamorous lifestyle] are a small percentage but they are all down to Earth and they know it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. You’re dealing with having to move at the drop of a hat, people think you make a lot of money and you have to deal with family members asking for money.”
In fact, the couple drove Kamalu’s college car when they had to move to Boston.
“It was a 28-hour drive with two dogs loading all we could into our car,” Ucheomumu said. “You have to deal with ups and downs and one of the downs was me tearing my ACL in the middle of the move and still having to lift and pack boxes at 3:00 a.m. Those are the things that need to get done in order to make things happen. As much as I’d love to drive a big Range Rover like they do on T.V. it’s just not my life, there definitely can be glamorous moments but it’s definitely not like it is on T.V.”
It is not just her and Kamalu. Every NFL wife and significant other that Ucheomumu knows rally to give their men the support they need whether it be long distance relationships or going through pregnancies alone.
“A lot of these ladies have sacrificed so much,” Ucheomumu said. “I know one young lady who’s husband plays for the [Los Angeles] Chargers. She has to sacrifice not seeing her husband because she wants to become a doctor. There are some that have to give birth alone while their husbands are at training camp. All NFL spouses I know are just as strong or as dedicated and willing to sacrifice whatever to make their husband’s dreams happen. They are amazing young woman, supportive, humble.”
Ucheomumu told a story about a promise Kamalu made her.
“We were living in a college dorm the size of a shoebox basically and he’s like, ‘One of these days we’re gonna get a house and two dogs,'” Ucheomumu said. “Low and behold not even two years later we have our own little house here with our two little dogs that he always dreamed of. He says things and makes them happen and we have plans after the NFL and we are excited to see those happen.”
Ucheomumu though is along for the ride with Kamalu’s dream, does not think for one second that she is putting her own life and dreams on hold.
“It doesn’t feel like a sacrifice because we have invested so much in his dream,” Ucheomumu said. “Before I hurt my ACL, we trained together during the offseason, I do the same workouts for the most part that he does so it’s more so building our dream and building to something sustainable for our future and it’s more so we’re taking advantage of everything the NFL has to offer and something sustainable for my kids.”
She may workout with him but can she benchpress as much as Kamalu?
“I wish I could,” Ucheomumu said with a laugh. “He’s a strong guy, all defensive linemen are, but I wish.”