It's a journey — one of a brilliant and talented young man from Georgia who is transforming the running back position in the National Football League. However, his path to the NFL had its challenges.
The promising player became a high school All-American but had troubled times in college at Alabama. He remained in the SEC, played sparingly at times, and NFL scouts and GMs overlooked his promise because of a lack of overwhelming production.
One NFL scouting department noticed something in him. That something was enough to urge head coach Sean Payton to make a trip to Tennessee to see it for himself in a private workout. What he witnessed was the future at running back for his franchise. Fortunately for Payton, he was still there in the 3rd round of the 2017 NFL Draft. This one decision was not a popular one with draft experts, but ultimately, it culminated by giving New Orleans one of the best running backs in all of football. His name. Alvin (Adama) Kamara.
The drama of Drew Brees' injury and Sean Payton's selection of a new starting quarterback may have overshadowed the one constant for the Saints' offense in 2020, Kamara. Alvin Kamara (AK) may have all eyes on him today as Saints face their bitter rivals, Atlanta Falcons.
Kamara is having a strong season. He has already set a couple of NFL records and is on pace for setting more. Alvin is considered an MVP or OPOY candidate and is one of the most talked-about running backs in the league.
Today, Taysom Hill will become the starting quarterback against the Falcons. The offensive game plan most likely will be to get #41 into a groove early and often.
“Alvin’s having a fantastic year,” Payton said. “And so, you are constantly looking for touches, whether it’s running plays or plays where he’s out of the backfield.”
Kamara's journey to the NFL is very reminiscent of one you would see on Netflix’s “Last Chance U. He traveled through five schools in four states before landing in New Orleans with the Saints. His journey to the NFL and the Saints is as unconventional as his athleticism and skill.
Alvin Kamara tells his own story on the AK41 website. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, to Adama Kamara on July 25th, 1995. Alvin’s passion for football and work ethic garnered him looks from top recruiting programs.
As he focused on his senior year at Norcross High School, Kamara had one of Georgia's greatest prep football seasons. That season, he averaged over 7.5 yards per carry for 2,250 yards with 31 touchdowns. The proudest accomplishment was helping to lead Norcross to its first-ever title game. It was that game against Lovejoy that Alvin’s true character shined!
His team was down by double digits for most of the game until Alvin crafted the biggest comeback in Norcross’s history. The star running back scored three straight touchdowns in the fourth quarter and led Norcross to become Georgia Class 6A Champions. Kamara was named as Georgia’s Mr. Football by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
His coach, Keith Maloof, recollected the first time Alvin touched a ball in 10th grade.
“The first time he touched the ball as a 10th-grader, I knew he was special,” Norcross coach Keith Maloof told The Advocate. “The things he possessed at the high school level — he could run inside, get the hard yards, and catch the ball out of the backfield.… it led us to a 15-0 season.”
The coach’s most formidable challenge was figuring out where to play Kamara.
"He could play any position on the field except the offensive line. He could have played quarterback or receiver or free safety or outside linebacker or defensive end. This kid was that talented. He could do anything." Coach Keith Maloof
IT WAS ALMOST DONE BEFORE IT STARTED
Kamara was one of the top high school prospect targets for quarterbacks. While there is no perfect path to the NFL, through hard work, tenacity, and determination, Alvin broke all the molds and created his own.
Kamara had to decide where to attend college. He had it all figured out. His Georgia prep system education had set the foundation for his transition to a storybook Nick Saban Bowl-winning football program. With interest from across the United States, including Georgia, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Oregon, Tennessee, and USC. Alvin was on the brink to be as dynamic a player and receiver in college as he was in high school.
The popular Norcross, Georgia running back captured the attention of Alabama's Nick Saban. While it is not unusual for high profile high school prospects to receive hundreds of recruiting correspondence in a short time, it was interesting to receive so many from one school in one day. Bleacher Report recalled a significant day that changed Kamara's life.
Alvin Kamara recently arrived home from school to find his mailbox literally overflowing with letters, which is unusual enough. However, he soon realized that he had received 105 letters from Nick Saban and the Alabama football program, each of which was uniquely written with no duplication.
Decision made. Alvin was on his way to play football for Nick Saban. While on his way to Alabama, Kamara had major missteps in his personal life that sent him down the wrong road.
The Undefeated reported Kamara was set to take the field for Nick Saban when he suffered a knee injury that took him out for the season. After he recovered from the injury, he was ready to get back to practice, Saban suspended him for behavior issues.
The police arrested Kamara for driving without a license. Eventually, Alabama released the young up-and-coming player, which sent him packing to Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.
Alvin Kamara did not plan to play at a community college, but life just threw him a curveball. For one season, he endured life in Kansas. Kamara took his smaller role in football in stride, but he never lost sight of playing for another Division I team. His hard work and bold spirit landed him in Tennessee. Kamara was not a superstar yet, but he was willing to put in the work. He showed small glimpses of the hype and glam we see now, but many questions still ensued. Kamara stayed encouraged, saying, “I am just always thankful for the opportunities I got.”
“I want to get the ball as much as I can. Carries catches… however they want to use me. But it is not just about me. I was part of a team. Coaches do what is best for the team. That’s the way it should be.” Alvin Kamara
After two years at Tennessee, accumulating 683 receiving yards and almost 1,300 rushing yards en route to 23 touchdowns. While he was not the star that many believed him to be at Tennessee, he was elite enough to get the eyes of NFL scouts. The New Orleans Saints selected Kamara 67th overall in the NFL Draft in 2017.
AN IDEAL FIT IN THE BIG EASY
Alvin Kamara spoke with Ben Baskin back in 2018 about feeling the vibe of THE BIG EASY. He seems to have found what he has longed for: an ideal fit, both in football and life. That fit is in New Orleans, a place he now calls home.
Nobody, not even Kamara, could have predicted how successful the match would be for him and the Saints. Not this quickly. Sean Payton helped to develop the “Joker” position into a potent weapon in the NFL. First, in drafting Reggie Bush and then signing Darren Sproles, the role as a multidimensional back who can create mismatches against defenses has taken a new meaning with Kamara.
In the private workout and 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, Kamara posted the best numbers of all running backs in both the broad and vertical jumps. Later his impressive route-running abilities led Sean Payton to find a way to have him on the team.
Sean Payton skillfully uses Kamara's skills and pushes him to better today than he was yesterday. Kamara enjoys being a part of a team that allows him to be himself — no matter how eccentric —bull nose ring, gold and diamond-encrusted grills, and dreadlocks.
Kamara has since proven to be the ideal fit for that role and the Saints offense, a hybrid player with size and speed and endless versatility, a precise route-runner, hard to tackle, unfathomably efficient. A running back can seamlessly slot out to play receiver, a receiver who can line up in the backfield and run between the tackles, a threat to score every time he touches the ball, including kick returns.
Kamara points out that his look, style, personality, and vibe all embody the spirit of New Orleans. Saints and AK fans now wear gold teeth grilles to the Mercedes Benz Superdome, fake dreadlocks, and bull nose rings in their noses. The 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year says his ability to be “organic and authentic” in the city, which is a key factor for his success. The energy is right, the perfect fit for the franchise, city, and player.