Aug 10, 2012
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, IL - Mulku Kalokoh is used to the double-take he gets when he introduces himself.
"Your name is Moo-Koo?" they ask. "Is that a nickname or your real name?"
Kalokoh laughs and usually tells people they can just call him Mook.
His given name of Mulku is actually fairly common among Kalokoh's West African ancestors. His parents emigrated from the tiny country of Sierra Leone to escape a developing civil war in the 1980s. They found a new and better life in Woodbridge, Va., where Kalokoh was born and raised.
Not long after he was born, Kalokoh's parents separated, and Mulku lived with his mom, Marie Kamara, and three siblings -- Abdul, Alpha and Assiutu.
His mother remarried, but tragedy struck the family when Kalokoh was 14. His step-father, who was a cab driver, was robbed and murdered while on duty.
"Suddenly, I was the man of the house," he recalled. "When that happened, I felt I had to step up and take charge and be a leader for my family."
Kalokoh admits he wasn't the perfect role model. On one hand, he was a fantastic football player at Woodbridge H.S., who scored 24 touchdowns and led his team to a state title in 2008. However, he missed out on opportunities to sign Division I scholarships with Virginia or Michigan State because of academic problems.
"I wasn't mature and didn't handle my business off the field like I should have," he said.
Instead, Kalokoh enrolled at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas, determined to make amends in the classroom.
"I told myself I'll never let academics be the reason why I couldn't play football," he said. "If anything stops me from playing football in the future, it won't be academics."
He rushed for 1,197 yards and 18 touchdowns in two seasons at Coffeyville, earned an associate degree in 2010, and began looking for a four-year college.
During his junior year at Southern in 2011, Kalokoh saw limited duty behind MVFC Newcomer of the Year Jewel Hampton and veteran running back Steve Strother. He enters the 2012 season as Strother's backup, but he's had a strong camp and figures prominently in the team's offensive game plan.
At 5-foot-10 and 193 pounds, Kalokoh is more of a speed back than a between-the-tackles type, but he doesn't want to be stereotyped.
"Football is about heart and desire and how bad you want to play," he explained. "People always worry about how big and strong you are, but when you get on the field, everybody has an equal chance to prove they belong."
As much as he loves football, Kalokoh said he's just as determined to complete his degree in history at SIU.
"My mom came to this country for an opportunity at a better life," he said. "That's why I want to graduate and get my degree, to prove to my mom that she came to the U.S. for a reason. I want to make her proud and be the first person from my family to graduate."
The weather could not have been more ideal for the first two-a-day practices of camp. Temperatures were around 70 during the morning with a cool breeze, before rising to 80 in the afternoon.
QB Kory Faulkner showed why he's the clear-cut starter. During Team 11-on-11, he completed his first nine passes. The streak was broken when WR LaSteven McKinney dropped a crossing route. Faulkner showed plenty of zip on out-routes to WRs John Lantz, Luke Standiford and McKinney. His best pass of the morning was a completion to Lantz -- a deep flag in which Faulkner released the ball before the receiver made his break -- and it landed perfectly in Lantz's arms. Faulkner led the offense on two drives, with the second drive utilizing the quick-tempo attack.
The offensive line fared better today in 1-on-1 pass blocking match-ups against the defensive line. Here's a quick recap -- OT Corey Boemer knocked down OLB Leonard Garron, G Tanner Crum walled off DE Kyle Cavil, C Eric Bergman fended off NT Kayon Swanson, DE Eze Obiora speed-rushed past LG Nate Haremza, OT Richard Wilson locked down OLB Josh Skadeland, OT Victor Craven beat OLB Chase Allen, call it a draw between G Josh Tinajero and DE Adam Brandt, C Matt Griffith subdued NT TJ Beelen, DE Calvin Belts beat G Ryan Wood, OLB Leonard Garron slipped by OT Clayton Melville and DE Brandon Williams bull-rushed past OT Adam Clay.
The starting O-Line today was Wilson, Haremza, Bergman, Crum and Boemer (from left-to-right). The second unit was Melville, Wood, Griffith, Tinajero and Craven.
Tomorrow morning's scrimmage begins at 8:30 a.m., and it is one of the most important two hours of camp. To keep players healthy, there aren't many full-go, live-contact opportunities, such as this scrimmage. It's always exciting to see who steps up.
Here's some observations from today's morning practice from staffer Tyler Wooten -- "CB Tay Griffin had a handful of athletic pass breakups during his playing time with the first-team defense. All of the DBs have split time between the first and second teams...By my count, S D.J. Cameron notched his fifth INT of camp today in team drills...WR Carl Harris has been a favorite target of QBs early in camp, and he knows how to go up and get the ball. Today, he had a fantastic catch in double coverage where he leaped and turned back toward the ball...WR Kennington Easley also had a handful of spectacular catches. Against double coverage from LB Jayson DiManche and CB Terrell Wilson on the left sideline, DiManche tipped the ball in the air and Easley dove to the ground and caught the ball in bounds."