When Andrew Mukuba moved to Texas at the age of 9, he knew Michael Jackson was the King of Pop, Barack Obama lived in the White House, and movie stars were created in Hollywood.
Mukuba, a junior at LBJ, was not oblivious to world events while growing up in Zimbabwe, a country of 14.3 million people in the southern part of Africa. But when it came to football, he didn’t know the difference between a quarterback and a half-back.
“I didn’t know anything about football,” said the talented Jaguars receiver / defensive back during a practice break this week.
Mukuba grew up playing football, his country’s most popular sport. He also watched his friends play rubgy, cricket and field hockey.
Mukuba knew nothing about football until he and his family moved to Texas in 2011. His curiosity grew while watching the NFL and college games on television. It was then that he joined a neighborhood football league and played for the Pee-Wee Steelers.
“I remember how much I liked the physics of the game, how much I liked being physical with everyone,” Mukuba said.
Mukuba has become a quick study. As LBJ (8-2) prepares for his Class 5A Division I bi-district game against Georgetown (7-3) on Friday at Nelson Field, he has become one of the most explosive players in central Texas.
Mukuba is averaging 22.5 yards on his 36 catches and has 15 touchdowns. He also scored a pair of touchdowns on kickoff returns and another on a punt return.
College football teams have noticed. Although he still has a year of high school left, he already has offers from Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, SMU and Tulsa.
“Andrew’s ability on the big game has been huge for us,” said sophomore coach Jahmal Fenner. “He’s a dynamic player who plays with natural instincts.”
Fenner said he recognized Mukuba’s talent when he entered campus as a freshman after spending three years at Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy.
“You could see he had known about football since playing in a little league here,” the coach said. “When it comes to understanding the concepts and patterns of the game, it was still crude in those areas.”
Mukuba said the football skills he learned in Zimbabwe translated into his new favorite sport. Footwork is especially vital for a wide receiver and defensive back, but Mukuba’s rise is more than it looks.
“I’m playing with a chip on my shoulder,” he said.
Many soccer players have the proverbial chips on their shoulders, but Mukuba uses it as a means to an end.
“I have a family that depends on me,” he said. “I want to play at the next level (college) and then the next level (professional). I want to support my family.
Mukuba’s mother, Tshala Bilolo, has only seen her play once in high school because she works Friday nights. He also wants to provide for his siblings – four brothers and two sisters. He is particularly close to his older brother Fatu, who used to play wrestling with him in the front yard after watching matches on TV.
Although Mukuba has been an attacking star, he prefers to play on the defensive end of the ball. LBJ’s strength is a defense that allows 8.8 points per game and has recorded five shutouts.
Fenner said his players had “taken over the characteristics” of second-year defensive coordinator Jason Davis, a passionate coach who uses positive feedback and hard love instruction to motivate his players.
Among his main followers is defensive end Brendan Jones, whose dump dog aggression helped him register 50 tackles, 18 for loss of yards, 12 sacks, three fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and three. slaps at the line of scrimmage.
Mukuba also contributed generously to the defense: 40 tackles, three fumble recoveries, two interceptions and five interceptions.
“I like to play defense better,” he said. “I like to go out there and hit people.”
With college and possibly the NFL in Mukuba’s future, there will be a lot more strikes in store.