The Kwete trio at Northern Arizona football is down to a duo. But brothers Eloi and Richard are trying to make the most of the 2023 fall season.
Eloi and Richard have been with the Lumberjacks program since 2019 and 2021, respectively, and are each forging their own paths on the defensive line.
It’s been a long journey to even get to this point. The Kwete brothers moved to the United States in 2016 as part of a refugee program from Zimbabwe. Eloi and twin brother Cosmas were star rugby players and took up high school football at Phoenix Central in the 2017 season. Eloi started his freshman career with the Lumberjacks in 2019 and Cosmas spent his freshman year at Washington State before transferring to Northern Arizona. Richard, the youngest of the three, graduated from Phoenix Sunnyslope in 2021 and came to Northern Arizona as a freshman that fall.
Cosmas graduated after the 2022 season, deciding to forego his final year of college eligibility to pursue a professional career. As of reporting, he has not signed with a professional team.
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Eloi is a longtime starter and one of the Lumberjacks’ best players on defense. Richard made his first on-field appearances as a sophomore in 2022, and is looking to be more of a regular contributor.
Lumberjacks coach Chris Ball talks glowingly when asked about the Kwete brothers — especially Eloi. Football, however, isn’t on the top of the list of what impresses him about the two young men.
“(Eloi)’s got a really interesting story. He comes here from Zimbabwe, speaks seven different languages, is really smart. And he’s also a great football player, and he’s grown a lot as a player this summer,” Ball said. “You can see it in Richard, too.”
He added: “You can tell it’s easy to come here and work every day. The adversity back home means that when there’s adversity on the field, it doesn’t doesn’t have a negative effect. That’s perspective.”
But Ball also recognizes their skill.
Eloi was the one Lumberjacks player to earn a preseason All-Big Sky Conference nod from the coaches and media.
“Richard Kwete is big and strong, too. He’s gotten a lot better,” Ball said.
After getting off a plane and facing a different culture and way of life as refugees — and notably the Phoenix heat — years back, it took a beat to get used to the United States. Athletic success and the community with the team has made the transition easier.
“I don’t think words can describe how much I love this place. It’s turned me from a boy to a man, and I think I’ve made lifetime friendships here, and I’ve gotten to play with my family and my Lumberjack family. That’s for life. It hasn’t always been easy, but I have grown a lot,” Eloi said.
Richard has followed suit.
“We basically do the same thing every day; sleep, wake up, practice, put in extra work. We’re just trying to get better on and off the field,” he said.
It’s still “a little weird” to the brothers that Cosmas is gone. The other two brothers respect his decision and are supporting his next move, but still miss having him around.
The trio often still talks consistently, including regular FaceTime calls. The two remaining Lumberjacks, though, are focused on their individual and team goals, at least for the rest of the season.
Eloi has also taken on more of a leadership role, both for his younger sibling and for the team.
“I think I’ve always been the big brother, but now it’s a step further. I really have to focus on that,” he said.
Eloi’s Preseason All-Big Sky Conference Defensive Team nod is more than just an earned accolade. Last year, he totaled 50 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks, and hopes to accumulate even better stats this year.
As the only Northern Arizona player honored before the 2023 season begins, he sees it as a blessing.
It motivates him, he said, and added that he’d like to see other Lumberjacks on the list when this year’s campaign is done.
“It means expectations, but I think pressure is a privilege. I do believe that I’m starting to get recognized, but we’ve got a special group that I want to see more of them get recognized too,” Eloi said.
That’s the Kwete way. It’s not easy to get the brothers to talk much about their past, despite their story being unique to just about anybody else on the team.
Richard said one of the main character traits his family strives for is humility.
Simply, they want to fit in, compete and help the Lumberjacks succeed, just like any other player on the squad.
In the back of their minds, though, there’s always that extra push they get from each other and looking back on the journey that got them to Flagstaff.
“Family: that’s our ‘why,’ our reason we keep going.” Richard said. “And we still have a lot more to do.”
ERIC NEWMAN Sun Sports Editor azdailysun.com
2023-08-09 18:45:00 , azdailysun.com – Vivrr Local Results in news/local of type article