For Eastern Michigan University redshirt senior defensive end Kalonji Kashama, family comes first and he realizes he would not be the person he is today if not for them.
Kashama was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on July 5, 1991 and is the youngest of seven siblings to Helene, Theresa, Cynthia, Hakeem, Fernand and Alain.
“It feels good to be the youngest sibling,” Kashama said. “I got to learn from each one of them, so I really don’t have a lot of room for error. They really let me learn from all of those experiences, so it is really nice.”
He moved with his family to Brampton, Ontario, Canada when he was young.
“Coming from [the Democratic Republic of] Congo, we are also immigrants of Canada and can relate to them and their experiences of moving from across the ocean.”
The first time Kashama watched American football was when he saw his older brothers playing.
“They started playing when I was around seven years old and it was really cool,” he said. “My brother [Alain] went to the University of Michigan, so I was able to go to Michigan Stadium and watch a couple of his games and fell in love with the atmosphere.”
Kashama’s older brothers were the reason why he decided to start playing football at the age of 14.
“All three of my brothers played Division 1 [college] and professional football, so they helped set the path for me to get to where I am at now,” Kashama said. “I didn’t start playing until I was 14 because I previously played soccer and basketball.”
Kashama admitted that he was pretty good at soccer and basketball, but football was his so-called destiny.
“I think I was pretty good in my mind, but my brothers kind of told me to get into football,” Kashama said in a laughing manner.
He played high school football at Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School in Burlington, Ontario, where the team lost only two games in his time there.
After meeting with head coach Ron English, Kashama knew he did not have to go to any other schools for visits as he was sold on coming to Eastern Michigan University.
“Once me and Coach E sat down and talked, we really saw eye to eye,” he said. “I believed in his program and everything he was teaching. After that, I wasn’t really looking at any other schools.”
The biggest adjustment coming from Canada to the United States to play for EMU was missing his mother’s home-cooked meals.
“Not eating my mother’s food was a big deal,” Kashama said. “It was the only thing I had a hard time adjusting to, but everything else was a smooth transition.”
Kashama once majored in mechanical engineering, but changed to business management with communication as his minor and has enjoyed it ever since.
If a career in the Canadian Football League or National Football League never comes to fruition, he wants to intern for the United Nations or at a global company doing non-profit work since him and his brothers already run an organization.
“Me and my brothers run our own non-profit organization called All Kash Foundation, which is based in Toronto where we run free camps for kids and speak at immigrant schools,” Kashama said.
Kashama’s brothers are his biggest influence because of how much of an effect they have had on his life.
“All three of them have had an equal effect on my life as far as everything I have accomplished,” Kashama said.
Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @EasternEchoGeno.