Ugandan Leader BC's 6'8" Mathias Kiwanuka is a top pass rusher and a grandson of a former African prime minister

November 24, 2003

Mathias Kiwanuka isn't the only defensive end in the nation who
stands 6'8" and runs a 4.7 40-yard dash, but it's safe to assume
that no other lineman can match the Boston College sophomore's
ability to skin, clean and grill a goat. Kiwanuka is a
first-generation Ugandan-American, and his childhood in
Indianapolis had a heavy African flavor. His parents spoke
Ugandan at home, and, in keeping with tradition, goat meat was a
staple for holidays and family celebrations.

So do Indianapolis supermarkets carry the delicacy, which
Kiwanuka concedes is an acquired taste? "No," he says. "You go to
a farm and get your own goat."

Kiwanuka has gotten the goat of several opponents this year,
including many coaches whose game plans he has destroyed. In his
second season with the Eagles the wiry Kiwanuka (he's only 250
pounds) has developed into one of the nation's best pass rushers.
He has a Big East-leading 10 sacks and is second in the
conference with 18 1/2 tackles for loss. "He's a young Jevon
Kearse," says line coach Keith Willis, invoking the name of the
Tennessee Titans' All-Pro end. "He might be quicker than Jevon."

Kiwanuka's national profile is still low, but his surname is
well-known to students of Uganda's turbulent political history.
His paternal grandfather, Benedicto Kiwanuka, was a leader of the
Ugandan Democratic Party and was elected the country's first
prime minister, in 1961. His populist agenda made him a hero
among the masses, but he was ousted from office by the colonial
British government shortly before Uganda gained independence in
'62.

In 1971 Benedicto was appointed the country's first chief justice
by the commander of the Ugandan army and leader of the ruling
junta, Idi Amin, who had hoped the respected statesman would lend
his new military dictatorship some legitimacy. Kiwanuka, however,
became a critic of Amin, and in '72 the ruthless despot executed
him. "He was one of those people who wouldn't back down
regardless of the consequences," Mathias says of his grandfather,
whom he never met but has heard stories about from his parents.
"He saw a direction for Uganda that people weren't willing to
follow because of their fears, and he paid the price."

In the 1970s Mathias's parents, Emmanuel and Deodata, immigrated
to North Carolina before finally settling in Indianapolis.
Throughout their childhoods there, Mathias and his brother, Ben,
and sister, Mary, straddled two cultures. (Emmanuel and Deodata
divorced when Mathias was 10; he and his siblings were raised by
his mother after his father returned to Uganda.) Mathias still
remembers details from a family visit to relatives near the
Ugandan capital of Kampala when he was eight. He keeps a souvenir
from the trip--a small, carved wooden car--in his dorm room at
BC, where he also has a full-sized Ugandan flag on a wall. "At
school I was a regular American kid," he says. "But I grew up in
an African household."

Because he was so thin--he weighed 195 pounds in his final year
at Cathedral High--he drew little attention from colleges. Eagles
coach Tom O'Brien stumbled upon him when he was recruiting one of
Kiwanuka's high school teammates, sophomore BC tackle Jeremy
Trueblood.

Since his arrival at Chestnut Hill, Kiwanuka has grown an inch
and a half and added nearly 50 pounds of muscle. As a redshirt
freshman last season he was used mainly as a rusher on passing
downs, but this year he has handled a full workload. He's
technically raw and still needs to fill out, but his speed and
pterodactyl-like wingspan make him a dangerous defender. "He runs
4.7, but he plays even faster than that," says Willis. "When he
pursues across the field, he runs past defensive backs. With two
more years to learn, he's going to make a lot of money in the
NFL."

Draft day in 2006 should be a goat-worthy occasion.

COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER (KIWANUKA) GOOD COMPANY Kiwanuka (right), a sophomore who has 10 sacks this season, has been compared with Jevon Kearse. COLOR PHOTO: STEPHEN DUNN/GETTY IMAGES Ball

Quarterbacks Beware

With 10 sacks Mathias Kiwanuka ranked near the top in the
nation. Here are the top seven (stats through Nov. 8).

PLAYER, SCHOOL SACKS

Dave Ball, UCLA 13 1/2
Shaun Phillips, Purdue 12 1/2
Jorge Cordova, Nevada 11 1/2
Kenechi Udeze, USC 10 1/2
Bo Schobel, TCU 10 1/2
Derek Kennard, Nevada 10 1/2
Greg Richmond, Okla. State 10 1/2

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)