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Cyrus Kouandjio was born in Camaroon and grew up in Maryland. Now he's one of college football's top linemen.
Alabama offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio (71) grew up watching soccer not pro football, but he may soon join the NFL.
Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio (71) initially committed to Auburn but changed his mind and decided to join his brother with the Tide.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Cyrus Kouandjio was born in Cameroon and grew up in Maryland.
So what is he doing down in Alabama?
“Trying to win championships,” he said in a phone interview.
He’s doing a pretty good job of that. Kouandjio (pronounced KWAN-jo) was a backup on the Alabama football team that won the national championship two seasons ago and started at left offensive tackle for the squad that captured the national championship again last season.
“So far I can say that it’s been working out real well,” said Kouandjio, a junior.
The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Kouandjio is one of returning six offensive starters on the top-ranked Crimson Tide, which will face Virginia Tech on Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
If he skips his senior season to turn pro, Kouandjio could be a high pick in the NFL draft next spring. He is rated the No. 5 prospect for the 2014 draft by both Mel Kiper and fellow ESPN analyst Todd McShay.
“I’m entering my third year in college ball and I want to excel before I even think about the NFL,” Kouandjio said. “If I do the best I can and I keep progressing like I am right now, eventually things like that, positive things, will come my way.”
Kouandjio moved with his family from the African nation of Cameroon to Maryland when he was 4 years old. He began attending DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md., when he was a sophomore.
Both Kouandjio and his older brother Arie played football in middle school and high school, but the family’s passion was soccer.
“One day I had him in the office and … I asked him, ‘Who is your favorite tackle in the NFL?’ ” former DeMatha coach Bill McGregor said. “He says, ‘Coach, I don’t know any NFL players. I know soccer players.’ And he rattled off four or five of the top soccer players in the country.
“Their father was a great soccer player in Cameroon, so [Cyrus] knew the soccer world much more than he knew the football world.”
Kouandjio beame a Parade All-American at DeMatha.
“Because of his size, because of his athleticism, because of his work ethic, you knew he was going to be an outstanding football player,” McGregor said.
Kouandjio orally committed to Auburn on national signing day in February 2010, but he expressed doubts to McGregor several minutes after his nationally televised announcement and never signed with the Tigers. Later that week, he decided to join Arie at Alabama.
Cyrus Kouandjio started every game for the Crimson Tide last season, when he allowed only 3 1⁄2 sacks and recorded 24 “pancake” blocks. He helped the Crimson Tide rank 16th nationally in rushing offense (227.5 ypg).
Kouandjio, who is rated the nation’s sixth-best offensive tackle by Lindy’s Sports preview magazine, said he is three times better than he was at DeMatha.
“In high school I was raw. I was just overpowering,” he said. “I was just better than everybody.
“Alabama taught me skill and effort. That molded me into the player that I am now. Technique, balance, hands placement — I was taught all that in high school, but I didn’t really pay too much attention to it because I didn’t need to. Now I am.”
Kouandjio’s brother will play beside him on the starting offensive line this season. Arie, a fourth-year junior, will make his starting debut Saturday as the left offensive guard.
What’s it like to play college football for such a big-time program?
“It’s physically and mentally challenging and really demanding,” Cyrus Kouandjio said. “Only the strong survive in this program.”
Kouandjio feels jitters when he plays in big games, but he tries to block those feelings out.
“I personally like to think of games as practices,” he said. “As long as I go as hard as I can in practice then games should be easy.”
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