Mathias Kiwanuka isn't the only defensive end in the nation who stands 6'8" and runs a 4.7 40-yard dash, but it's safe to assume that no other lineman can match the Boston College sophomore's ability to skin, clean and grill a goat. Kiwanuka is a first-generation Ugandan-American, and his childhood in Indianapolis had a heavy African flavor. His parents spoke Ugandan at home, and, in keeping with tradition, goat meat was a staple for holidays and family celebrations.
So do Indianapolis supermarkets carry the delicacy, which Kiwanuka concedes is an acquired taste? "No," he says. "You go to a farm and get your own goat."
Kiwanuka has gotten the goat of several opponents this year, including many coaches whose game plans he has destroyed. In his second season with the Eagles the wiry Kiwanuka (he's only 250 pounds) has developed into one of the nation's best pass rushers. He has a Big East-leading 10 sacks and is second in the conference with 18� tackles for loss. "He's a young Jevon Kearse," says line coach Keith Willis, invoking the name of the Tennessee Titans' All-Pro end. "He might be quicker than Jevon."
Kiwanuka's national profile is still low, but his surname is well-known to students of Uganda's turbulent political history. His paternal grandfather, Benedicto Kiwanuka, was a leader of the Ugandan Democratic Party and was elected the country's first prime minister, in 1961. His populist agenda made him a hero among the masses, but he was ousted from office by the colonial British government shortly before Uganda gained independence in '62.
In 1971 Benedicto was appointed the country's first chief justice by the commander of the Ugandan army and leader of the ruling junta, Idi Amin, who had hoped the respected statesman would lend his new military dictatorship some legitimacy. Kiwanuka, however, became a critic of Amin, and in '72 the ruthless despot executed him. "He was one of those people who wouldn't back down regardless of the consequences," Mathias says of his grandfather, whom he never met but has heard stories about from his parents. "He saw a direction for Uganda that people weren't willing to follow because of their fears, and he paid the price."
In the 1970s Mathias's parents, Emmanuel and Deodata, immigrated to North Carolina before finally settling in Indianapolis. Throughout their childhoods there, Mathias and his brother, Ben, and sister, Mary, straddled two cultures. (Emmanuel and Deodata divorced when Mathias was 10; he and his siblings were raised by his mother after his father returned to Uganda.) Mathias still remembers details from a family visit to relatives near the Ugandan capital of Kampala when he was eight. He keeps a souvenir from the trip—a small, carved wooden car—in his dorm room at BC, where he also has a full-sized Ugandan flag on a wall. "At school I was a regular American kid," he says. "But I grew up in an African household."
Because he was so thin—he weighed 195 pounds in his final year at Cathedral High—he drew little attention from colleges. Eagles coach Tom O'Brien stumbled upon him when he was recruiting one of Kiwanuka's high school teammates, sophomore BC tackle Jeremy Trueblood.
Since his arrival at Chestnut Hill, Kiwanuka has grown an inch and a half and added nearly 50 pounds of muscle. As a redshirt freshman last season he was used mainly as a rusher on passing downs, but this year he has handled a full workload. He's technically raw and still needs to fill out, but his speed and pterodactyl-like wingspan make him a dangerous defender. "He runs 4.7, but he plays even faster than that," says Willis. "When he pursues across the field, he runs past defensive backs. With two more years to learn, he's going to make a lot of money in the NFL." Draft day in 2006 should be a goat-worthy occasion.
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