Under the lights of Doak Campbell Stadium, with the “Tomahawk Chop” being yelled into his ears by 80,000 Seminole fans, Lumi Kaba, junior kicker, became the legend of San Marcos.
The ESPN broadcast tagged Kaba with the nickname during his performance that concluded with seven punts for 326 yards.
His journey to that point was an unusual one, however.
Kaba was born and raised in Europe, where soccer is the main sport among the youth. The young European boy learned to love the game from his father, Ziber Kaba.
Lumi Kaba played forward throughout his soccer career.
While Lumi shared the same love for the game with his father, they disagreed on which teams to root for.
Lumi Kaba has always loved Real Madrid, and Ziber Kaba is a die-hard Barcelona fan.
It was a classic case of Ronaldo against Messi.
“Whenever Real Madrid and Barcelona play each other, the house is definitely divided,” Lumi Kaba said.
Then, one day when Lumi Kaba was seven years old, his family moved to Tyler, Texas, where they currently reside.
Some say football is a religion in Texas. The Texas culture grabbed ahold of Lumi Kaba and eventually molded him into the player he is today.
With a soccer background, Lumi Kaba unsurprisingly found his niche as a kicker.
The athlete had to work mostly on his own to perfect the craft of kicking a football because he didn’t receive much play time with his high school team. There were not many opportunities to showcase his skill.
Despite low opportunity, Lumi Kaba made a local All-Star football game as a kicker, where he was credited with the longest field goal he’s ever converted in an actual game—61 yards., His career-long in practice is 68 yards, according to Lumi Kaba.
Texas State recruited Lumi Kaba out of high school, but he said that he didn’t feel like it was the right move for him to come to San Marcos directly following graduation.
Instead, he decided to stay local and attend Tyler Junior College, where he played kicker for the Apaches.
After a distinguished career in Tyler, Texas State was still interested in Kaba after losing Will Johnson. At this point, Lumi Kaba decided to transfer to the school that had expressed interest in him two years prior.
There were some growing pains during fall camp. Brad Franchione, special-teams coordinator, and Lumi Kaba have bumped heads from time to time, but the two have a good relationship.
Franchione said one of the biggest adjustments for Lumi Kaba was the timing of his punting. He simply wasn’t getting the ball off quick enough.
“We had a punt that got blocked in fall camp, and Lumi blamed it on the protection and I blamed it on him,” Franchione said. “We had an argument about it and I told him there was no argument. I’m right and you’re wrong. You have to speed up.”
The growing pains spent working on Lumi Kaba’s timing brought him and Franchione closer together as player and coach.
The two have a positive relationship off the field, but on the field, Franchione is all business. He wants great punts and kicks, and if Franchione doesn’t get that from Lumi Kaba, they work on the problem until it is no longer a problem.
Franchione wanted Lumi Kaba to understand that special teams have a key role. He has credited the junior kicker to understanding and owning that role on the team.
Throughout fall camp, Lumi Kaba refined the little details in his punting and kicking with his coach, and that brings us back to the first game of the season.
This game was the highest profile matchup in Texas State football history against the 10th-ranked Florida State Seminoles. The Bobcats played in front of 80,000 fans of Doak Campbell stadium.
This was the biggest stage of Lumi Kaba’s career, and he delivered.
The athlete’s first two punts exceeded 50 yards. The hang time on the punts was what wowed the commentators and Franchione.
Kaba’s punts had so much hang time that it allowed the punt coverage players time to get downfield and swarm the punt returner.
“We were real pleased with the hang time on the punts,” Franchione said. “When you net what we did, that’s a positive in field positioning.”
The Florida State punt returned fumbled his punts, one of which Texas State recovered in Florida State territory. The recovery led to the Bobcats’ only touchdown of the first half.
And so the legend of San Marcos was born. The stage was set and Lumi Kaba took advantage of his opportunity.
Follow Paul Livengood on Twitter @IAmLivengood.