Temple linebacker Kamara cares

Amara Kamara (middle) talks at a Boys and Girls Club in Wasington, D.C., while flanked by Temple teammates (left to right) Andre Neblett, Chester Stewart, Alex Joseph and Adrian Robinson.
Amara Kamara (middle) talks at a Boys and Girls Club in Wasington, D.C., while flanked by Temple teammates (left to right) Andre Neblett, Chester Stewart, Alex Joseph and Adrian Robinson.
Posted: July 23, 2010

Amara Kamara gives back because of what he has.

He has the look of an all-MAC linebacker for Temple, which gives him a platform to be heard.

He has the tale of coming over from civil war-ravaged Liberia at age 11, enough to make a teenage smoker or drinker open their ears.

And, he has his own reason.

"I don't wanna just play football," says Kamara, one of 112 nominees for the AFCA Good Works Team award, widely regarded as the most prestigious community service award in college football. "I wanna be able to preach what I learn throughout my career."

Kamara loves kids, jumps at the opportunity to speak to middle school and high school youth in Philadelphia and New Jersey.

He has a message, one he heard not long after the seventh grade, the first time he stepped on a football field.

He could go to college. He wouldn't have to pay a dime. All he had to do was play football.

"Me, being the type of guy being born out of the country, I looked to those type of people," said Kamara, a 6-2, 240-pound senior. "Those type" being college football players.

It's a far cry from growing up on the acres of farmland owned by his grandfather, a Liberian chief.

The third oldest of eight children, Kamara was raised by his grandparents.

"I was named after my grandfather," Kamara said. "We were best friends. Nobody had a problem with it when he said he wanted me to stay with him. Whatever he did, I always followed him. I was his little sidekick."

His grandfather died when Kamara was 6, changing his whole perspective on life. Three years later, he saw the value of an education, saw his uncles as doctors and living a better life.

"That's when I realized times are not the same," said Kamara, a communications major. "You have to have an education to do what you want to do."

It's the same message he harps with each classroom visit, each interaction on a youth football field.

It's a dream to start a foundation, return to Africa and provide jobs.

"I'm not just trying to help my family," he said. "I'm trying to help anybody."

The reward? Seeing kids tell him they want to be like him.

"I don't try to count how much time I put in," said Kamara, who participated in 12 community service events last year at Temple and whose 200 hours of community service trumped the 60 hours required to graduate from Weequahic High in Newark, N.J. "I just count the help that I've been able to provide for young people."

Altarik White, Kamara's coach at Weequahic, never had to worry about Kamara getting into alcohol, drugs or gangs.

Kamara's presence around the team helped steer teammates away from trouble, too, helping take pressure off the coach to control kids despite struggling with speaking English.

White called him a lock for first-team all-MAC this fall and expects him to get more than a few looks for a spot in an NFL minicamp.

He won't have to fake any predraft interviews, which often deal with questions of character.

The son of a shop owner and a hair braider, Kamara looks at a future in football as just another opportunity to help others.

"I love that kid like a son," White said. "The world would be a lot better place if kids grew up with the same attitude and the same living desire to be successful as Amara Kamara." *

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