If you drive around 113th Street and NW 27th ave on a random Friday night during football season you might think to yourself that you’re at a real professional NFL game. The atmosphere that surrounds Nathaniel Traz-Powell Stadium on each Friday night would make anyone think that the Miami Dolphins were playing inside of the football field. Then again, if you would watch the teams that Traz-Powell hosts each week you would think that some of the players could actually lineup for the Dolphins on Sunday. However, for the people who do manage to watch each game at Traz-Powell Stadium on Friday’s then they get blessed with the opportunity to see the local future talent who will play in the NFL eventually, just in a few years down the road.
The best high school football games bar-none are played inside of South Florida. In the community, football is king and there aren’t more positions that are more popular to fans, citizens in the community and to children than a professional football player.
For Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken, growing up in South Florida he too was one of the children that got exposed to the rigors of playing football in the city. His time playing football in the area only helped mold him into the player that he is today. Aiken was a standout player at Chaminade-Madonna High School where he played nearly every position on the field. He ended up winning the 2A state championship, made All-State and All-County honors and then found himself with a scholarship to the University of Central Florida. After going undrafted in 2011, Aiken finally got his opportunity with the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent. Fast forward three years later and Aiken saw himself released from the Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, and the New England Patriots. However, just when he was released by the Patriots, Aiken found himself a new landing spot, Baltimore and in week six of the regular season he scored his first career touchdown.
One could only imagine how tough it was for Aiken to finally get an opportunity with the Ravens. For a person to play for several different teams, after enduring so many road blocks and pillars along the way, the pain is now well worth it.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Matt Schaub himself had some words about Aiken…
“It definitely shows that all the hard work pays off,” quarterback Matt Schaub said. “All these years, he has just kept coming to practice, kept coming to work and just continuing to strive to do the best that he can and be perfect on his routes and understand what the quarterback is thinking, coverages and his subtle route adjustment. Kamar does run crisp routes, and he doesn’t confuse the quarterback with his breaks, and he has shown the ability to have strong hands and go attack the football and not wait on the football. You’ve got to love that as a quarterback.”
Aiken had a bit of a homecoming game on Sunday when he came to Miami, Fla. to play against his former hometown Miami Dolphins. Aiken finished with a decent game as he caught six passes for 48 yards in a close 15-13 loss to the home team. Nevertheless, for someone who understands the grind of making it to the NFL even he had some good words to say about the game.
“It’s always good to be in the position that I’m in to play in front of friends, family” said Aiken.
The bright side is that in spite of the Ravens losing record, this year Aiken has had a breakout season and the best statistical season of his NFL career. In 12 games, he’s caught 49 catches, has 584 receiving yards and added in and four touchdowns. For someone who went undrafted and could potentially finish with more than 1,000 receiving yards in a season is truly an incredible feat.
Either way if Aiken reaches the 1,000-yard mark on not doesn’t define his success as a player. Aiken has fought, scratched, and clawed to find his way into the league and it’s lessons that he’s learned from the city that have helped put him in the position that he’s in.
“Just grind with whatever you get, whatever is thrown your way. Just to keep the pace and make sure you always believe in yourself and keep grinding it out” said Aiken.
Aiken’s example of perseverance is what all children in school should be taught. Don’t stop going after your dreams until you shake the hand of the man that has been blessing you.
D’Joumbarey A. Moreau covers sports in Miami-Dade & Broward County. You can follow him on Twitter@DJoumbarey.