Azur Kamara travelled a long way to make it to this point. Before he became an impact player on the football field, he spent time playing soccer in the Ivory Coast. His incredible story might just be the best this year’s draft class has to offer.
Kamara quickly flashed potential at Glendale Central High School. Since he was under the radar in the recruiting ranks, he initially began his collegiate career at Arizona Western College. After two successful years there, the Kansas Jayhawks made an offer to the talented outside linebacker.
Despite not receiving much playing time in his first year with the Jayhawks, Kamara didn’t let it bring him down. He finally received his chance to shine under head coach Les Miles. During his senior year at Kansas, he totaled 51 tackles and four sacks.
We sat down with Kamara to discuss his journey from the Ivory Coast to United States, experience at the Senior Bowl and preparation for the NFL Draft. Let’s get this interview started.
The Spun: What was the toughest part of the adjustment period from Ivory Coast to Arizona?
Azur Kamara: I’d say being able to adapt to the culture. It took me a little bit, but with the help of my parents and a couple of friends I met, I was able to adjust to it. This was a whole different culture from where I was from. I didn’t speak English, I used to speak French.
When life gets tough, @kingAzur_ thinks. About his African upbringing. About the miles-long treks for water. About coming to the US, as a refugee, w/o any knowledge of English or football.
— Henry Bushnell (@HenryBushnell) April 18, 2020
The Spun: What about football did you like that you made the switch over from soccer?
AK: When I was in high school, they said I was too big to play soccer. Every time I tried to touch someone they called a foul. When I started playing football, I realized you can hit people for free. So, from there on, I just started to love the game. It also helped that playing soccer at a young age allowed me to have good feet. I feel like football has given me a great opportunity, and it’s the reason I’m in this position why.
The Spun: How were the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine appearances for you?
AK: They were great experiences because when the season ended, I didn’t expect an invite to any All-Star game. I came back to Florida and trained every day to prepare for whenever the opportunity would present itself. Thankfully, those opportunities came. I went out there and showed coaches my versatility at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine.
— Chidera Uzo-Diribe (@CoachDiribe96) March 1, 2020
The Spun: How was it to play under Les Miles?
AK: Playing under Coach Miles was amazing because he’s such a relentless guy. If he wanted something done a particular way, it had to be done that way. If we didn’t do it that way, we had to practice it over and over again. That helped me a lot because it showed me the work ethic you need and how you have to pay attention to the details.
The Spun: What was your favorite part about playing college football at Kansas?
AK: Everything, man. It was everything I ever dreamed of. Those two years at Kansas were fun. I started my career there as a defensive end and didn’t receive much playing time. Then when I was moved over to outside linebacker in my second year, I saw the field. Coach Miles and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot really allowed me to succeed.
There’s nothing wrong with being rejected, it makes you turn to God and work harder👏🏿🙏🏿 https://t.co/CRsax8LU7h
— Azur Kamara🇨🇮🇱🇷 (@kingAzur_) February 9, 2020
The Spun: Who’s been your biggest inspiration throughout this journey?
AK: My mom and my high school coach. He’s the one who got me into football in the first place. When I first went to register at my high school, he saw me and asked me to try out. He’s like a father figure to me because he’s helped me out so much.
The Spun: What’s your go-to move as a pass rusher?
AK: My go-to move is speed-to-power. I was successful with this move throughout high school, JUCO and then Kansas.
The Spun: You’re a few days away from being in the NFL. How can you describe this entire journey for you?
AK: The only word I can use to describe this for me is blessed. My mom is a firm believer in God, and she tells me ‘If you put God first and go to work every day, anything is possible.’ This whole experience has been amazing. I never thought I’d be here in this moment. This week is going to be the conclusion of a very happy journey.
Looking for a Combine sleeper? Good bet for fastest DL is @KU_Football Azur Kamara (@kingAzur_). Checkout the chase speed (from right edge) on this play from @seniorbowl. Good lesson for kids, explosive plays are good opportunity to show off your speed. #TheDraftStartsInMOBILE pic.twitter.com/izDy2gbN96
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) February 13, 2020
Kamara doesn’t just have an incredible story, he’s possesses legitimate talent and could be a playmaker for a defensive front in the future.
Scouts have raved about Kamara’s footwork and explosiveness. He should be a fine selection for a team later this week.