B-port athlete trades court for gridiron
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 10:09
This season, Brockport athletics faithfuls noticed a familiar face in an unfamiliar environment. Former basketball star Kazeem Are is now taking to the football field as a wide receiver and one of the newest members of the Brockport football team.
However, this season doesn’t mark the first time Are has strapped on a set of pads.
Are was a football standout while attending Columbia High School in his home town of South Orange, N.J. Are made such an impact during his high school years that, aside from being scouted by a slew of Division II and Division III schools, smaller Division I schools — including Rutgers — were also looking into the 6-foot 7-inch wide receiver.
Better yet, Are hadn’t picked up a basketball or a football competitively until he was a senior in high school.
Following high school, Are attended Erie Community College (ECC) where he played basketball for two years before transferring to Brockport his junior year.
During his basketball career with Brockport, Are played center and forward under Head Coach Greg Dunne for two years before his official NCAA eligibility ran out following last year’s season. The lack of eligibility was what prompted Are to make the jump from the court to the gridiron.
“I always wanted to play football after high school,” Are said. “I just went with basketball after that and all my coaches wanted me to stick with basketball, so I went with it. I always wanted to play football, though.”
Are tried to go out for both football and basketball last season, but due to NCAA standards, Are wouldn’t have been able to start his basketball season until November due to the overlapping schedules. The delay would have caused Are to miss several games, a trade-off he was not willing to accept.
Even though Are has played football before, it’s now been five years since his one-year breakout back in New Jersey. The years of balling on the court have put rust on his football gears.
However, Are has an excellent work ethic and determination. He said he hopes to make the best out of his remaining three years of eligibility, which will take him through the current year and two years of graduate school if he chooses to remain at Brockport.
Are has already noticed the difference in team atmosphere since joining the football team.
“It’s totally different,” Are said. “It’s kind of weird because in basketball it’s 16 guys. With football there’s, like, 100 people on the team and I only know about 10 of them by name. I just started making up peoples’ names as they go along. Everybody has a nickname they don’t know about.”
Are said practice is another difference between the football and basketball teams.
“Practice is definitely separated because you have offense and defense, and there are two other coaches,” Are said.
Are said he enjoys his new environment and relishes in his team’s early success, despite the heartbreaking loss to Kean University Sept. 22.
“I’m glad to be a part of the team,” Are said. “We were looking to go 4-0, but a loss is a loss.
“We’re all looking forward to Rowan next week,” he said. “I’m just taking it one week at a time. We can’t afford to lose any more.”
Are also said it took him some time to readjust to the game.
“It took me a while to get into it,” he said. “It was slow coming in, but I’m moving along better. Just standing on the sides I’m learning lots of new things.”
Aside from having to learn a new system in a sport he’s been absent from for five years, Are has been forced to adapt to a whole new atmosphere of coaching now that he finds himself on a football field.
“It’s definitely different,” Are said. “We do a whole lot more conditioning in basketball.”
He said since he’s accustomed to basketball conditioning, he doesn’t get tired when he’s on the football field.
“They’re [basketball Head Coach Greg Dunne, football Head Coach Rocco Salomone and Offensive Coordinator Jason Mangone] all excellent coaches and they all want to win.
“Since I’m a wide receiver, I’m with Mangone most of the time,” Are said. “He pushes everybody. The guy wants to win. The guy speaks the truth. If you’re messing up, he’s going to tell you you’re messing up. He’s just like Coach Dunne. He’s not afraid to play anybody. If you’re doing your job, that’s who he’s going to play.”
Mangone said Are is a dedicated player and a great addition to the Eagles’ roster.
“Knowing that he’s been away from football for a few years now, he’s dedicated himself to be successful through a tremendous work ethic,” Mangone said. “He is on the practice field with [Assistant] Coach [Adam] Erickson before just about every practice to get extra work in to better himself. He’s a great addition to our team on and off the field.”
Part of Are’s work ethic paid off in Brockport’s Homecoming game Saturday, Sept. 15.
In the first quarter of the game, Are caught an 11-yard pass from senior quarterback Joe Scibilia to put the Eagles up 7-0 over the College of New Jersey. The Eagles won their third game of the season, 41-17.
“His body frame makes him such a threat in the red zone,” sophomore running back Shireem Cobb said. “His routes and hands started a little slow but he has made the transition. He is a hard worker and wants to do whatever to make himself better ... not to mention he is a beast in the weight room.”
Despite the excitement of returning to his football days, Are said he struggles with the notion he is no longer a part of the Brockport basketball team.
“The worst part is I can’t play with them again,” Are said. “I know that they’re going to have a good year and I’m just going to be there on the side. It’s definitely the year of the [Derek] Klein. To my football guys, it’s our year too.”