EXCLUSIVE: Kaaya's mother talks with CanesInSight
Up until around May, Angela Means-Kaaya was the most recognizable person in her family. Having played the role of Felicia in the 1995 movie “Friday”, Means-Kaaya was in the spotlight before she decided to take a step back from her career in order to focus on raising her son, Brad Kaaya.
“I had a nice career on the road as a national headliner. I was a stand-up comic who opened for everyone from Chris Rock to Jamie Foxx. Chris Tucker and I worked together all the time and I was doing things. I was five months pregnant at the premiere (of Friday). When I was a stand-up, that’s what I was. When I was an actor, that’s what I was. When I became a mother, the kid just stole my heart and that’s what I am,” said Means-Kaaya.
Brad had been earning interest from schools around the country in the spring, but nothing had been concrete yet. That is until the University of Miami came calling.
“I remember when a friend of mine called me from an organization out here that trains kids and he called me and said ‘congratulations’. I knew that Brad had gotten his first offer. I didn’t know where, but I almost fainted. When he said Miami, I thought I was going to pass out, but then I had to calm myself down and say ‘not Ohio right?’,” Means-Kaaya laughed.
Kaaya has emerged as one of the top quarterback prospects in the country, as he was invited to the most prestigious camp in the country, the Elite 11. As a mother who invested so much time and effort into Brad over the years, what was that feeling like when he finally took off as a major recruit?
“It was surreal and it was like ‘see Brad, this is what hard work does’. I’m sure you’ve heard it a thousand times, but I knew this was coming. I didn’t know that it would be Miami right out of the gate, but it was pride and then to see him walk with half a step more swag and confidence, and then he went right into Elite 11 and his ranking went up. It was so much pride and joy because we put so much into this kid. That’s my little baby. I see him and he’s 12-years-old to me and sometimes I see him as my 6-year-old. He’s my little baby. I cook for him every single day and we do everything that we’re supposed to do with him.”
Although she was ecstatic (and still is) about her son’s success, this wasn’t something that caught the family off guard.
“This is supposed to happen. He’s 6-4, 220-pounds, a 4.0 student, a student of the game, never been in a dispute, everyone loves him. You look at his picture, and that’s who he is. We’re proud, but this is supposed to happen. This is what he wants and he’s one of those people who when he wants something, he makes it happen.”
One of the most important factors as to why Brad, Jr. has become the person he is today is because of the support of those around him, which is something his parents have always put at the forefront.
“Me and his father aren’t together, but we’ve been so good to one another that God is only going to bless us. We decided we would love this kid. Brad wasn’t an accident, we planned him. We wanted him in our lives. Relationships in Hollywood do dissolve but we’re always going to love him more than any conflict we had and we stuck to that.”
Means-Kaaya has seen a special ability in her son since a young age.
“Bradley is a student of a game and his football IQ is ridiculous. When he was like 7, they gave him a playbook and it had like a hundred plays in it and they came back on Monday and the coach said ‘alright now let’s talk about the plays’ and he said, ‘which one, I learned them all.’ This kid knew every one of them. Bradley is an ‘A’ student; I taught him how to read when he was three. I did the Mozart and all this stuff to connect the highways in his brain to build his capacity. I nursed him for 9 months, all his food was just fresh and I pureed everything. He’s been bred for this. As soon as he touched a football, it was a wrap. I put him in everything. He was in swimming and I even had him in ballet. I tried everything and he was good at everything. I took him to piano when he was three and kept calling the teacher to please see him and she said she wouldn’t because they didn’t take three-year-olds. Then 15 minutes after meeting him, she was like ‘alright, he’s undeniable’.”
Even during her pregnancy with Brad, Means-Kaaya made it a point to do everything in her power to make sure he was being given the best care possible.
“I remember his father telling me a few dates in – and I’m a sports person, I’ve done everything and I even blew my knees out in high school – that if we had a kid, we’d probably have a quarterback. He told me that while we were dating and I imagined in Scooby Doo’s voice saying, “quarterback?” Eight months later, I was pregnant and I knew he would be an athlete. I set out to do everything right in my pregnancy. I ate right, didn’t get into one dispute. I had a thing for hot dogs, Dr. Pepper, and nectarine every now and then, but I did everything else. I walked constantly and when he came out he was perfect. We did everything we were supposed to do so we’re not shocked at any of this. It was supposed to happen.”
Leadership ability is one of the most important attributes for a quarterback to have and that seems to be something Kaaya was born with.
“I remember being on the playground with him when he was in the third-grade and he would stay after school when there wasn’t football practice. I would bring food for all the kids there and just watch them play and I remember these two boys just ran up to him and they we’re like ‘Brad! He took the ball from me.’ And he was just so subtle, telling them to do this and that, and they said, ‘Thanks, Brad!’ When he was in fifth-grade, all of the kids in his grade had to be mentors and they would get one first-grader. They gave Brad two kids to mentor. He just has some inherent goodness about him that no human being cannot see. It’s something so special,” said his mother.
The legend grows.
“When he came out, the doctor said, ‘time’ and everybody looked at the time. The minute had was on the six, the hour hand was on the 12, and as soon as he said ‘time’, the second hand went straight to the 12 and it was straight up-and-down. The doctor had him in his arms and said ‘Whoa. Who is this?’”
Despite living out in the Los Angeles area, Means-Kaaya is confident that Miami is the place for her son.
“He’s so perfect for Miami. It’s unreal how perfect of a fit he is with Coley and Golden. When you see these guys together, it’s sparks flying. It’s a serious love affair. They just talk football.”
A major factor in Brad’s recruitment was his relationship with offensive coordinator James Coley.
“We’re so happy with Miami and this kid loves James Coley. I can’t stress that enough. When he talks about it with me, he says ‘Mom, they want me. I see where I fit and where I can get on that field’. The recruiting process for us has just been a little different. We were able to take advantage of it on the other end of his playing days. Recruiting for us and him is done.”
Not only has Brad felt a connection with Coach Coley, but his mother did as well.
“When I first talked to Coley, I apologized and said ‘you’re going to take care of my baby, right? If I send him across the country, you promise me right now you’ll take care of him.’ I said I know you hear it from all the mothers, but he said they didn’t hear that very much. He’s very supportive of it and never shuts me out. He includes me in everything, we’re actually friends on Facebook. Before I talked to you, I shot him an email to tell him I was going to have a discussion with a reporter to make sure that was fine. We’re in constant communication. It’s awesome! He’s like Uncle James and he’s so open with me. I’ll shoot him a Facebook message saying UCLA was talking to Brad so he knows everything that’s going on. He said that was the first time that a parent has told them everything.”
Having such a close bond with her son, is going cross-country something she is worried about?
“I’ll be bi-coastal. I’ll have a place here and I’ll have a place there. I’ll see him on Sundays whenever coach lets him go on Sundays. He’s gotta go and spread his wings and I’m wrapping my brain around that, but he’s my only child and I stopped working. I’ll put my kid up against anyone’s kid because I did the work. I did everything for him, so now it’s time to trust that me and Brad did everything we could and that he can handle this.”
Some Miami fans have been worried about Brad’s recent visits to the hometown schools USC and UCLA, who have been showing him interest as of late. His mother explained why he hasn’t completely shut out other schools.
“His committing so early to Miami made him miss out on meeting people that he’s going to see down the road somewhere. He took one of his friends over to USC and the kid doesn’t have a car so he asked Brad if he could give him a ride and Brad was like ‘you know, I want to see the campus’ so he went down there and they were all over him. The good news is that he got to look other professional football people in the eyes, shake their hand, and they got to see who he was. Now, five, six, seven years from now they’ll say ‘yeah, that’s a good guy, we met him’. Now he’s on UCLA and USC’s lists and he gets to go to the games to form some relationships that he wouldn’t have been able to form because he committed so early.”
While she wants her son to have these recruiting memories, she was unaware how much stir the process can cause until a few weeks back.
“It got a little crazy a few weeks ago with USC because I had no idea that USC media were going to blast out that Brad Kaaya was there as a recruit, because he wasn’t there as a recruit. He is committed to Miami and whenever he talks to anyone, he tells the coach he’s going to Miami, but he’ll listen because he doesn’t want to be disrespectful. They understand that, but they also have to do their job. Anything that they can do to put him on their list and all that, they’re going to do it. One coach said he wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t give him a call and if he didn’t try to have a conversation with him. And you know what? He’s a teenager. What teenager doesn’t want attention from a D1 coach?”
Perhaps the biggest question surrounding Miami recruiting over the past three years has been the cloud of the NCAA investigation. The Kaaya family was put to ease about the situation early on in his recruitment with Miami due to one Alfred James Golden.
“He didn’t create this mess, but he’s getting Miami out of the mess and he didn’t have to. He didn’t have to stay. I’m sure a lot of people don’t even realize that all of this stuff didn’t happen under Coach Golden’s watch. My hat is off to this guy because he’s taking it for the team. He’s getting us through it. Before they went into the meeting with the NCAA, I wrote him a letter saying that the Kaaya’s stood with him. We’re all going to get through this together. No matter if we get five scholarships or 20 scholarships, let’s go, let’s do this. He’s a man of honor and a lot of people wouldn’t put themselves in this position. He could go somewhere else and coach and work himself up to a great job. He looked in our eyes and told us that we would get through it and we signed up. We honor it because we signed up for this. He asked us to ride with him when he offered Brad. When Brad committed, in essence we said, ‘we’re riding’.”
This past weekend’s win over Florida was not unexpected for Kaaya’s mother.
“I knew this was coming. I have so much faith in Coley. I have so much faith in Golden. I have so much faith in all those guys. Carroll, Franklin, Brown and all those guys. When you’re in the Miami offices, those guys are so cool and it’s just about football. Nobody is tripping on anything. They’re so tight and they’re relatable. They just gel and fit like puzzle pieces together. I’m old enough to know winners when I see ‘em. When Brad, Sr. went to see them and he came back and said how amazing they were, then Brad, Jr. and I went to see them in their element and it’s like how could we not have faith in them? At some point, you have to function on faith. I’ve seen enough now where I’ve seen other programs and there’s something very special about Coley and Golden.”
Means-Kaaya has been actively involved in educating herself on who Miami is recruiting and the backgrounds of a lot of these prospect. Two prospects in particular who have caught her eye are Johnnie Dixon and Braxton Berrios.
“I like what my kid likes. I asked him in the beginning of the season to give me a couple guys who we were looking to get. My kid loved Johnnie Dixon and then when I met Johnnie, I was blown away. I was blown away not only with Johnnie, but with Johnnie’s mother. With Johnnie’s mother, it was like ‘oh wow I could get emotional right now’ because I see myself when I looked in her eyes. She’s the same as me because she’s right there in the recruiting process, she’s right there at all the games, she knows where Johnnie is at every minute of the day. He’s not only a great player, but he has a great parent. At the end of the day, all of my relationships were players parents. He’s a lot like Brad where he’s subtle, he’s smart, he’s funny. He hit me up on Twitter and asked to borrow my VCR and said Brad had told him to do it (laughs). Those are the types of kids I want around my son. Johnnie’s confident, strong, and talented. I can see what those two can do and wow, then you throw Braxton in there. This kid is super talented. Brad knows what he wants and he’s prepared to make great decisions. He came back from Elite 11 and said, “mom, that’s what I want’. I investigated what my kid wants, and sure enough he was right again.”
Another important trait for a quarterback is decision-making. Not only on the field, but off of it. With so much pressure being put on the modern-day division-one quarterback, Means-Kaaya feels like her son is ready to take on the challenges ahead.
“Every day, I see the adult Brad, Jr. It’s always been about decisions in life. The first decisions he had to make was I would lay out Superman, Spiderman, and Batman underwear and he had to decide which one he wanted and tell mommy why. Every day, there was a different decision to make. Which towel was he going to use, the white, blue, or beige? He’s a good decision-maker and he’s not going to do anything stupid because he got so much attention. Brad is good, he’s ready for the world.”
From all accounts, Brad is an easy going individual who knows when to get down to business.
“When I tell you this kid has never been in a dispute, he really hasn’t. He’s so charming and diplomatic. He’s so easy to get along with that it’s mind-blowing. He’s here for something. I recognized it early so I just said I would get him ready for it. Whatever it is in life, he’s ready for it. I might be going off, but even when he was a kid, adults liked having him around. I was able to take him to the movies when he was a baby. He’s just something special, like supernatural special and I can’t wait to see what he does with it. He makes things happen, he’s focused, he’s not easily distracted. Once he says he’s going to do something, he just does it. He’s relentless.”
After everything her son has accomplished, the mother of one continues to have a special pride about her son and has upheld a promise she made to herself as a child.
“That’s my little baby. He’s still my pride. I feel like he’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m from dirt roads, from nothing. I’m from a place where only a few got this kind of support and I made up my mind when I was a kid that my kid was going to have my 100% support until he was on his own. I was going to pay attention to everything in my kid’s life because I knew that all the attention I had, I had to give it to my kid. Brad, Jr. tells me that I’m special, so I give him all of that. I’m not going to just give it to him and go to some nightclub and throw it all away. I watch moms that let their kids slip because they wanted to be in the club or they wanted this huge career. At the end of day, what difference does it make if I’m the President of IBM and my kid is a dope fiend? My kid knows drugs are stupid, my kid knows how to love. He knows he’s supported and loved. I made it up in my mind before I was even out of puberty that this was the kind of mom that I was going to be. All I wanted to be was a mommy. I didn’t really want to be an actor.”
Whether he turns out to be a superstar quarterback or not, Means-Kaaya is at peace with the path her son has taken.
“He has found what he wants to do for the rest of his life as a teenager. Whether he’s going to be on the field, or in the front office, or on the sidelines coaching, he wants a career in football.”