Undrafted: Kamalu Climbs Ladder of Success With Patriots

One of the big men on the defensive line did not spend most of his childhood in the United States on the pop warner fields like most kids.

Born in California, New England Patriots defensive tackle Ufomba Kamalu spent over a decade of his life in Nigeria.

“After I was a born after like a year or so, my family took me to Nigeria so we could learn the language and the culture,” Kamalu said. “I was about 12 or 13 when we came back to the States.”

Kamalu when it came to football was a late bloomer. The Super Bowl champion first stepped on the gridiron in Georgia as a 16-year old high schooler.

“I played receiver at first,” Kamalu said. “Then I got a lot bigger and I was moved to defensive end.”

After spending a short time at Butler Community College, Kamalu went to the University of Miami where he continued to play. While he had aspirations to play in the NFL, he always thought it was a stretch.

“When I got to the University of Miami, I just wanted to keep playing,” Kamalu said. “I always wanted to play in the NFL but I never thought it was going to happen for real.”

In college, he recorded 48 tackles, 11.5 for a loss, eight sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and an interception returned for 46 yards.

Though he declared for the NFL Draft, the University of Miami alum was not selected.

Kamalu was not disappointed and stayed the course preparing for a career off the field.

“I wasn’t really thinking about playing in the NFL,” Kamalu said. “But when I didn’t get the call, I figured if I was going to do it, I’m going to have to do it the hard way.”

Kamalu got his break with the Houston Texans and played his first few seasons there. He recorded his first sack against former Patriot quarterback Matt Cassel.

After a short stint with the Cardinals, Kamalu found himself with the Patriots where he immediately saw the differences in organizations.

“[In New England], there’s a high standard of the way you do things,” Kamalu said. “They put all of the players and coaches on the spot to do well.”

With this new year, came a new inside linebackers coach. Kamalu talked about Jerod Mayo’s seamless transition from helmet to headset.

“It’s really cool being coached by him,” Kamalu said about Mayo. “He’s really funny and he loves the game and it’s great to be coached by someone who loves the game [as much as he does].”

It is not just Mayo, but head coach Bill Belichick himself that has made a difference in Kamalu’s game. In his time in Belichick’s system, he has learned many things about football that he never was taught before.

“When you hear him talk about the formations, what the offense is trying to do, it makes you think, ‘Wow that’s really deep,'” Kamalu said. “He just gives you a whole new understanding of the game.”

Kamalu also has new teammates he can look up to including Super Bowl champion defensive end Michael Bennett.

“He’s a great player and whenever we’re in meetings I just talk to him about pass rush, playing the run, and reading your keys,” Kamalu said. “He’s just really insightful.”

Kamalu has kept his eye on the prize the entire preseason. On the last Carolina Panthers possession in last week’s preseason game, he sacked rookie quarterback Will Grier and was met by a slew of teammates who embraced him.

“He spun around and came towards me and the second he saw me, it was over,” Kamalu said about the play. “It felt really good being there, I was so happy that my teammates were all there to make it happen [when we got our chance on the field].”

But what he is focused on is the last days of preseason. What would he do if he makes the roster? Kamalu gave a simple answer

“If I make it, it will be good but it would be just a beginning,” Kamalu said. “It would be good to say you made it, but it’s just a start.”

When he is off the field or not studying film, Kamalu spends down time with his girlfriend Anna Ucheomumu and also playing video games.

“I really like to play Apex Legends,” Kamalu laughed.

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