Rams rookie linebacker Micah Kiser is best known on the field for leading the ACC in tackles three years in a row. It's a feat previously accomplished by now Panthers All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly.
"I just play hard — that's just what I do," Kiser said this week. "You play linebacker, you want to make as many tackles as you can. So [I'm a] hard-nose player, [give] great effort all the time, and I was really smart so I could make a lot of plays.'
But if there's anything that separates Kiser from many of the players in his draft class, it's what he said about being "really smart." Sure, it's tough to be a football player at any level and succeed without a proper above-the-neck approach. But the Virginia product takes that to a very high level.
Kiser was awarded the Campbell Trophy after the 2017 season. You may not have heard of the honor, but it's given by the National Football Foundation to the college football player with the best combination of academics, community service, and on-field performance.
Informally, it's known as the academic Heisman.
So, yes, that was a big deal for Kiser and his family.
"My parents raised me to do everything I can to the best of my abilities, so they invested in me going to good schools from an early age — great high schools, great middle schools," Kiser said. "I went to a great University at UVA that had great influences and people to help me out. I took advantage of everything I had in my life and wanted to be the best at everything I was doing. On field, I was striving to be the best and then off field I was striving to be the best as well.
"That's just the kind of guy I am," Kiser continued. "That's what my makeup is all about and I want to keep doing that in the future."
It seems like it would be difficult to balance being so successful in both academics and athletics, but Kiser said his support system at Virginia enabled him to be successful in both areas.
"I've been doing it my whole life really," Kiser said. "I went to the Gilman School in Bal
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timore which is a pretty hard school, a college-preparatory school. But we also had great athletics as well, so I was balancing those then. Went to UVA and like I said, the athletic administration there is great at helping you, getting you the academic support you need. And the coaching staff is great. I had a lot of positive influences and a lot of great help, so they made it — I'm not going to say easy ,but they helped me along the way. I just took advantage of it all."
Kiser graduated from UVA with a bachelor's degree in foreign affairs and is pursuing a master's degree in higher education.
"I'm halfway through that," he said. "I'm very interested in athletic administration and hopefully when I get some time, I can go back and finish that."
But until then, he's focusing on football — a game he loves and is quite passionate about.
"I can remember early on in life when I was six years old, when I turned six the Ravens had won the Super Bowl," Kiser said. "I was very big into football and my dad got us the Super Bowl tape and every Saturday I used to watch basically the whole season from start to finish. I would watch it every single Saturday and I would know all the players. For my sixth birthday, I got my own room and it was Ravens-themed. I got all the players autographs and just loved the game from an early age.
"I played flag football, played tackle football since I was eight, played high school ball. Just always been around football and being on a team, being around the guys, and just working hard and being selfless to achieve something greater than yourself," Kiser continued. "That's what this culture here with the Rams is all about. It's we not me and it's the standard and that's just all about being bought in for the team. Just how I came up and coming up here is a great fit."