Like so many others in Baltimore, Kamal Al-Mateen witnessed the protests, the demonstrations, the discord and ultimately the rioting in the aftermath of the death of local resident Freddie Gray.
However, Kamal’s story might be a bit different from most. The 17-year-old Randallstown High School student, who stood out as the quarterback of the football team, has remained focused on the one thing that he said could really help solve at least some of the problems that led up the Baltimore riots.
“I try to stay away from the negative influences that are out there,” he said. “I know that I have a bright future and I don’t want to get caught up in anything that’s bad or anything that’ll mess me up.”
Kamal, a true scholar/athlete can be counted among the select few high school football players in the Baltimore area who will be moving on to play in college. He received a $65,000 academic scholarship to attend Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, a school which in 2013 was ranked by Forbes magazine in the top 12 percent among private colleges and universities for financial strength and operational soundness.
“I’m very excited about it,” Kamal said. “It’s nice to play up there and I know that my family is excited too.”
Kamal says his initial choice to attend the historically black North Carolina A&T didn’t pan out, but it also didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for Lycoming. He says he is following in his older brother Khari’s footsteps.
Khari, 22, recently graduated from the University of Maine and he also excels in football.
“My biggest influence has been my brother and my mom,” Kamal said. “They’re both very spiritual and my brother and I stay active with football and we stay active with our school work.”
Academics are more important to him and his family than athletics. Studying and being good role models for other young African-Americans is a major part of the family’s narrative, according to Kamal. He said that both he and his brother were taught to be positive individuals.
“We have to stay positive because our mom is a positive person,” Kamal said.
While he won’t decide a major until a little later, Kamal says he is considering architectural engineering, business and mass communications as his primary courses of study.
When he looks back and reflects on the riots that damaged his beloved city, Kamal said others could be better served by taking the course of he and his brother.
“I didn’t believe what was happening,” he said, adding that the silver lining was that the actions of demonstrators appears to have led to the charges of the six police officers involved in Gray’s death.
“I thought the riots would stand out in people’s mind more than the silent protestors,” Kamal said. “But, I guess the silent protesting worked.”