Sports

Ottawa’s Akheem Mesidor Ready For NFL Scouts to See “The Real Me”

Photography by Diamond Images/Getty Images

In the fiercely competitive world of NCAA football, where every step counts, Ottawa’s Akheem Mesidor literally hasn’t been able to put his best foot forward for a couple of seasons now. After having surgery on both his feet last season, the University of Miami defensive lineman hopes those issues are behind him.

Mesidor could have declared himself eligible for the NFL Draft this year, but after tearing the plantar plates on both feet, his stock as a draft prospect isn’t yet where he wants it to be.

“I just don’t feel like I’ve put on tape what a talented player I really am,” Mesidor said. “I feel like people haven’t really seen the real me. I’ve been in Miami for two years, going on my third. In my first year, I had the same injury on my right foot. I played through it, but it was also slowing me down. And then, last season, I decided not to go through that same pain and just get surgery.

“So I haven’t shown my true self. And I want to put that on tape this year.”

Mesidor is a fifth-year redshirt junior at Miami and checks in at 6-foot-3, 280 pounds. In 2022, Mesidor had 38 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, a team-high seven sacks, and 28 quarterback pressures. If he could put up numbers like that on two bad feet, imagine what he can do now that he’s pain-free. His return to total health this fall will likely be very bad news for opposing ACC quarterbacks.

“I’m fully recovered, and the off-season is going well,” Mesidor said. “I’m excited to be able to run and participate with the rest of my team. Because when you’re injured, they separate you from the rest of the team because everything you do is modified. So it’s great to be back out there with everybody.”

Mesidor is part of a large wave of great players who’ve come out of Ottawa to play in the NCAA and try to make the NFL. The list includes Neville Gallimore (Miami Dolphins), Jesse Luketa (Arizona Cardinals), Luiji Vilain (Carolina Panthers), Jonathan Sutherland (Seattle Seahawks), Wesley Bailey (Rutgers), Nate Martey (Arkansas State), and Christian Veilleux (Georgia State).

“Yes, Ottawa is a hot spot right now for football athletes, producing a lot of guys,” Mesidor said.

And it hasn’t really been one class of guys who came up and then you don’t see anything for years and years. It’s different generations who’ve all been successful. So football is a hot spot right now, and it will continue to be one. I truly believe that.”

When he’s back in town, Mesidor enjoys training with the other Ottawa players, but since schedules are tough to align, he sometimes reverts to social media.

“If none of those guys are there while I’m in Ottawa, then I’ll just post on my Instagram story: If any D linemen are trying to get some work done, just let me know. And then I’ll get some guys from Ottawa U or Carleton to come work with me, and then we’ll just make each other better.”

Mesidor’s biggest cheerleader is his mom, Carole Richard, who managed the household as a single parent, making sure that everyone was looked after.

“I grew up in a pretty big family,” Mesidor said. “It was my mom who took care of all of us. I grew up with six siblings, but I lived with four. My mom was working three jobs. She did whatever she had to to put food on the table and the roof over our heads.”

Things changed over the years as some of Mesidor’s siblings got older and moved out on their own. But that was offset by the fact that football was starting to get serious.

“She still had to pay for camps and off-season workouts. I was traveling back and forth to the States just to try to get some recognition. But my mom is really the reason I’m here. If it wasn’t for her sacrifices, I would not have been able to be where I am now. And I’m always truly grateful for her.”

Football is pretty violent. Was your mom worried about you in the early days?

At first, she was nervous. In my first year of playing football, I was eight years old and one of the smallest on the team. So she was nervous for me. I wasn’t used to the equipment. I’d fall down and struggle to get back up because everything was so heavy.

And one time, I just wasn’t getting up. I was tired, and the equipment was so heavy. She ended up running onto the field to check if I was okay and just stopped the game. But as I progressed and got better at football, I went from “the bullied” to “the bully.” So she started falling in love with it.

So, how would you describe yourself as a kid growing up in Vanier and Gloucester? What were you into besides football?

I was a kid who was always outside. I loved being outside. I knew there wasn’t much for me to do in the house. A lot of the time, I didn’t have cable or internet, so I’d have to be outside. We were always running around the neighborhood, playing basketball, football, soccer, or any sport we could. We’d play kid games like Manhunt – anything to keep us busy. I loved being outside and just hanging out with my friends.

Did you ever get to Redblacks games when you were younger?

I watched a lot of Montreal Alouettes because Ottawa didn’t have a team for a short period of time. So, I never really went to many games as a kid. But then, when they finally came back, I attended a few games. I just love football so much, NFL, CFL, youth sports, college, it really didn’t matter. I just had a love for the game, and it was always great to be out there and watch it, especially in person.

What do you do for fun when you come back to Ottawa?

I spend as much time as I can with my friends and family. I’m with my mom and sisters whenever I’m in the house. And then after, once I leave the house, I’ll try to find any friends who aren’t working so I can spend time with them. I don’t want to spend a single minute on my phone or just at home, not knowing what to do. I will be outside trying to find somebody to hang out with.

What do you do for fun in Miami?

In Miami, it’s a little different. We have workouts every day, and then we have class. I like to come home and nap. I’ll play video games, but I’ll go fishing here and there. I like to go out and get some good food at food trucks. I have two French bulldogs, so I like to bring them out to walk.

What are your dog’s names?

Frankie and Hazel. Frankie just turned one in May, and I just got Hazel a couple of months ago.

Speaking of names, who gave you the nickname “Kiki?”

My mom. She gave it to me when I was really young. I don’t remember being called anything else but Kiki when I was younger. Most people didn’t even know my actual name. But now everybody in the States knows me as Akheem. I kind of let go of the nickname after the Drake song came out (Kiki Do You Love Me?).

Are there any rituals or superstitions before games?

I talk to my mom before every game. That’s it.

And what does she have to say?

She’s asking me if I’m okay and how my body feels. She’ll tell me that she can’t wait to see me on TV and cheer for me. And then she’ll just tell me to go kick some butt and that she loves me.

And then, throughout the game, she’ll text my phone. I don’t know if she knows that we’re not allowed to look at our phones during the game, but she’ll text me throughout the game, and then I’ll just look at all of the texts afterward.

If the University of Miami star can get back to full health, allowing him to showcase his true potential, it won’t be long before his phone is also blowing up wth texts from NFL scouts and coaches.

Mesidor and the University of Miami Hurricanes kick off the 2024 football season on August 31st in Gainesville against one of their state rivals, the Florida Gators.

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