2015 Pac-12 Football Media Days: Cameroonian native Nembot learns football, becomes NFL prospect
BURBANK, Calif. – Stephane Nembot looked around the football field and saw people cheering, but he didn’t know what all the commotion was about.
“What is going on?” He asked.
“We scored!” a teammate responded.
“Where did he score?”
“Oh, he went through the end zone.”
“What end zone?”
Despite playing on the Montclair Prep high school football team in Van Nuys, California, Nembot didn’t know what a touchdown was. Heck, where he came from, people didn’t know what American football was, let alone the end zone.
It’s one of the many things the 6-foot-7, 323-pound Cameroonian-born player had to learn in order to become what he is today – a reliable offensive tackle in the Pac-12 for Colorado who has NFL potential.
Nembot, who arrived in America as a high school student, came to the States thinking he'd play basketball. Coaches and school administrators convinced him to switch to football, and soon enough, he was a starting defensive lineman... three days after his first practice. But the raw talent was evident and soon enough, college football coaches were knocking on his door. He chose to become a Buff.
Before he could make an impact on Saturdays in Boulder, he had to better understand the game. Transitioning from high school to college meant learning the playbook, the first one he had ever seen.
“[In high school], we didn’t have a playbook so I just knew my assignment… The way coach taught me was he’d say, ‘you see that guy over there?’ I’m like ‘yeah.’ He said ‘he’s talking bad about your mom,’” Nembot told reporters at 2015 Pac-12 Football Media Days. “I’m like, ‘what did he say?! Oh I’m coming for him.’”
So yeah, that Colorado playbook got a little confusing.
“I didn’t even know how you read the playbook. I just see all the lines and I’m like, ‘What the hell?!’” Nembot said.
It understandably took a while, but now Nembot has a feel for the game and has become a steadying force at right tackle for the Buffs, starting all 24 games at that position during the last two seasons. His 47 knockdown blocks in 2014 are one reason why Athlon Sports named him to its second-team All-Pac-12 preseason team. Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre adds that Nembot has put on 15-18 pounds of muscle in the offseason.
“He’s an amazing young man [considering] all that he’s had to do and overcome to excel in college and excel on the football field. He is truly an example of improving and working hard every day,” MacIntyre said about his redshirt senior right tackle, a man who knows 13 languages. “This year, you’re going to look out there and see a beast. He’ll play for a while in the NFL and he’ll go live with his degree and he’ll go back and help Cameroon, and he’ll be a success. He’s an amazing story.”
According to pro-football-reference.com, there are four Cameroonian-born people who have played in the NFL (Nembot would add Ndamukong Suh to that list, an American-born Miami Dolphin of Cameroonian heritage). If Nembot becomes the fifth, it sounds like he would spend the money as quickly as he gets it... but not on himself. His dream is to build an orphanage in Cameroon.
“I want to do it back home to help because growing up I always saw my mom and dad cooking on Christmas to give it to the poor. I was pissed about it. I was like, ‘We don’t even have shoes. Why do you do this?’” Nembot recalled. “They said, ‘One day you’ll understand.’ I guess I’m understanding why now.”