Keeping up with Kouakou
Quarterback details drive on and off the field toward his future
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Senior Wilfrid Kouakou is the definition of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. If you did, you’d be picking up a fresh and new book all about football and opening it only to find a very real, very gripping story of struggle, hardship and what comes of hard work.
Kouakou led the football team to an overall record of 6-4 this season, the best record the school has seen in 21 years. He grew up a football fan, specifically of the Tennessee Titans, but didn’t get his hands on a ball competitively until his freshman year. Most people may think he sleeps, eats and breathes football on and off the field and to the untrained eye, this could be the case.
“It’s a simple life, it’s not something amazing, it’s not like I go out and do crazy things, I more just sit at home and watch football, hang out with (Head Football Coach Will) Siffin, that’s about it,” Kouakou said.
But if you look a little deeper inside, you can see Kouakou knows it takes more than just a love for football to support a team the way he does. It takes hard work and support from everyone around him to keep him playing and leading the team as well as he does.
“With (senior) Katrae (Spivey) being one of my closest friends, I know he’s always been there for me, he’s always supported me, during every game he always tells me ‘Do your job, I love you and no matter what happens out here you’re still the man here, I still love you and I believe in you’ and hearing that from him being a really close friend it just gives you the confidence to go out and do your job,” Kouakou said. “I always tell him ‘I love you, this is your team, lead it’ and ‘This is your defense, be a leader’ and he’s done a great job,”
What carries him on and off the field though is his mother’s story of struggle to make ends meet for her family in America as Kouakou grew up.
“My mother used to live in Liberia. She would tell us sometimes that she would go hungry some nights because she went looking for food for us to eat, she would always make sure we had food to eat. It was just her struggle, her pain, having no one to support her at the time, to (get us) where we are today. She worked hard to bring us to this country, even though when we came here it wasn’t easy,” he said.
He highlights his mother as a main source of inspiration to him and as a driving force to succeed and take advantage of opportunities in his future.
“My mom is my inspiration. Knowing her story and knowing her background, just knowing how much she sacrificed for us, actually that’s why I do what I do, it’s why I play sports, it’s why I come to school, because I want to give my mom the life that she can’t give us right now,” Kouakou said.
His mother’s strive for a good life in America has worked out for the better, and her lessons have rubbed off on Kouakou.
“It was really rough, but it’s getting better. She always says having kids is a joy, because your kids are going to do things you couldn’t do in life. That’s her push for us, to be people in life, to be good men. She says she would (rather) have you be a humble man and an honest man than a rich man who just sits on his money. Money’s really not important to her, it’s amazing,” he said.
His mother’s struggle has shaped his ideals not only about his present but also about his future.
“In the future, just get a good steady job, start a family, and just live a simple life. Nothing big. I don’t want to be rich, I don’t want to play in the NFL, I don’t want that life, that’s just too much,” Kouakou said. “It starts with a dream, and the dream is to go to a four year college, get my degree and be a man that supports his family.”