Former Southern Mississippi safety and John Carroll graduate Ky’el Hemby hasn’t had the easiest path leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, but he’s motivated to continue his journey at the next level with the perseverance that’s gotten him to this point.
In fact, reaching the NFL has always been Hemby’s desired career path.
“When I was in fifth grade, I remember taking a photo shoot, and they asked three questions,” Hemby said on Glenn Clark Radio Feb. 3. “What do you want to be in life? What are your hobbies? What is your favorite sport? And all the answers were like, ‘Playing in the NFL, football, being a football player.”
Hemby began playing football at 4 years old, when he played Pop Warner ball for the Middle River Renegades. As a youth football player, he competed against a local coach named Keith Rawlings, who tried to recruit him to his team — but Hemby didn’t want to leave his friends at Middle River.
Hemby then enjoyed a decorated high school career. The Abingdon, Md., native began at Aberdeen High School before transferring to Patterson Mill High School and later John Carroll. He played his final two years of high school ball at John Carroll under Rawlings, who by that point was the Patriots’ head coach. Things really clicked during his senior season in 2015, when John Carroll went 12-0 and won the MIAA B Conference championship.
Hemby was a standout throughout his two years with the Patriots. He tallied 193 tackles, six interceptions and four fumble recoveries at John Carroll and was named an All-MIAA selection for his work as a senior.
“I learned a lot there,” Hemby said. “We had fun and had some major successes.”
From there he enrolled at Iowa Western — a junior college — with the intention of showcasing his talents to Division I programs. He cites this as the most challenging and discouraging juncture of his well-traveled path. He went from being a star at John Carroll to having to redshirt his freshman season at Iowa Western in 2016. He had 81 tackles and one interception in 2017.
“JUCO is the biggest gut check. We had about 200 guys when we first got there for our preliminary team meetings. By the end there were around 90,” Hemby said. “It’s tough. I think my advantage is I had already hit rock bottom. I know how to work. I feel like I’ve already done the worst of the worst, so anything in the future I know I can overcome.”
Hemby left Iowa Western as an NJCAA second-team All-American and landed at Southern Miss. The 6-foot-1, 218-pound safety totaled 217 tackles and nine interceptions from 2018-2020 and was even a second-team All-Conference USA selection in 2018.
“Those three years there were tremendous,” Hemby said. “… All that I did there led up to this point.”
Currently, Hemby is in the process of training for the draft; he recently finished up a week participating in the Hula Bowl. He was supposed to participate in the East-West Shrine Bowl, but that was canceled due to COVID-19.
When presented with the question of what his reaction would be if his hometown team announced his name, he gave a response that any Baltimorean can appreciate.
“I bleed purple,” said Hemby, who grew up loving Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. “That’s a dream come true for anyone to represent their hometown. Plus, my agency is here so that would just be icing on the cake. I’d be blessed to play anywhere, but it’d be extra special to play at home.”
For more from Hemby, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Southern Miss Athletics