A Gifted Player Who Works to Support His Teammates
By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School
JANUARY 8, 2019 – When Lee Kpogba came to Parkland as a freshman, it looked to School Counselor Karrie Lambeth Tuttle as if his time at the school could go either way.
“He was on a tightrope,” Tuttle said. “Is he going to go this way and get into trouble or this way and be successful?”
Kpogba freely acknowledges that was the case.
“I had the wrong mindset,” he said.
Choosing to focus on playing football for Parkland made all the difference.
“Football gave him that accountability,” Tuttle said. “He couldn’t get into trouble…and still play football.”
Making good choices – and playing excellent football as a running back and linebacker – has paid off in a spectacular way.
After graduating from Parkland at the end of this semester, Kpogba is headed to Syracuse University on a full football scholarship.
“I’m excited – a little nervous,” he said.
He chose Syracuse after visiting there in November.
“I like the coaches. I like the team,” he said. “They have a family vibe.”
He likes the university, too, and doesn’t mind that winters there are cold. What matters is being able to play football. Graduating early from high school and going on to Syracuse for the spring semester enables him to participate in the university’s spring practice programs and increases the likelihood that he can play as a starter when football season begins.
“He is a very deserving student,” Tuttle said.
One thing Tuttle appreciates about Kpogba personally is what a great teammate he is. If someone gets hurt, Kpogba checks on his teammate as soon as possible. If someone is having an off day, he does what he can to help him perk up.
“He is very uplifting to his teammates,” Tuttle said. “He is an encourager.”
Coach Martin Samek also spoke highly of Kpogba.
“I think Lee Kpogba’s strengths as a player are his tenacious approach to the game – he uses his speed and strength very well, Samek said.
As a person, Samek said, his strength “is his willingness to help others around him.”
Principal Spencer Hardy said that Kpogba’s gifts as a player were clear from the start. What Hardy has particularly appreciated is watching him grow as a person.
“We’re proud of him for his accomplishments on the football field and for growing into a fine young man,” Hardy said.
Kpogba is from Liberia. He came to the United States with his father, Samuel, when he was 2. His mother, Irene, and younger brother, King, still live in Liberia. He keeps up with them by telephone and such social media as Facebook but has not seen them since he and his father left.
Before leaving Liberia, he and his father were living in a refugee camp.
“I don’t remember anything from there,” he said.
When they came to the United States, their first stop was New Jersey. They had family members already in this area and ended up here.
Kpogba went to elementary school at Griffith and to middle school at Philo-Hill Magnet Academy and Flat Rock. Along the way, he played Pop Warner football.
The first Super Bowl he ever watched was between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals after the 2008 season. That turned him into a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
If he has the good fortune to make it to the pros, he would be delighted to play for any professional team, though.
And, one day, he would like to see his mother and brother again.
“I would like to go back to Africa one day,” he said.