In Arabic, the name Kamal means "perfection."
So it is for Clovis
running back Kamal Cass
, who has established himself as one of the greatest players at his position in New Mexico state history. But for all of the accolades, honors and praise that have come his way, Cass refuses to acknowledge any of it.
The YouTube video showing him returning a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, in which he seemingly made all 11 would-be tacklers of the opposing team miss?
"Don't really like to get caught up in that," he said.
How about breaking the school's single-season rushing record last season?
"To tell you the truth, I don't look at my stats," said Cass, who rushed for 2,580 yards and scored 40 touchdowns (36 rushing, four receiving) as a junior last year. "I just try to stay humble and not worry about anything else other than improving myself as a football player."
The 5-foot-10, 171-pound Cass is a throwback to an era when most players simply let their actions do all the talking.
"He really is that humble," 36th-year Clovis coach Eric Roanhaus said. "Kamal is soft-spoken and does everything we ask of him. He also helps out teammates who are not as gifted intellectually or physically. As a coach, you can't ask anything more from a player."
Strong words of praise coming from one of the legendary football coaches in the state, but that's the impression Cass makes every time he practices or plays a game.
Cass' athleticism, agility, quickness, speed and instincts are truly a one-of-a-kind combination.
"You can't coach instincts," Roanhaus said. "It's something players are born with and develop as they play. Kamal knows when to turn on the speed and hit the sideline or make the cut back inside."
Kass has run a 4.47 40-yard dash, but Roanhaus doesn't consider his star tailback to be a blazing runner.
"He's quicker as opposed to fast," Roanhaus said. "And quickness translates to the football field. Kamal's quickness gives him the ability to avoid tacklers and a bag full of rattlesnakes, and he does. He's making good use of the gifts the Lord has given him."
For all of his sheer talent, Cass wouldn't have become the player that he is today without sheer determination. Whether he's in class, in the weight room, at practice or in a game, one thought dominates Cass' mind.
"I play for my family," he said. "I work hard so one day I can help my mom and dad, just like they've helped me."
Even though Clovis (1-3) has gotten off to a rough start this season — it plays at Rio Rancho (3-1) on Friday at 7 p.m. — it's through no fault of Cass, who has picked up right where he left off from last year's spectacular season.
To put some perspective on Cass' 2012 campaign, here are his rushing totals from Weeks 6-11: 268, 386, 245, 260, 298, 336. In the scintillating six-game stretch, he scored 26 — count 'em, 26 — touchdowns.
Even though Cass has seen teams sometimes stack their entire defense in the box, he's still been able to get loose. After a 16-carry, 61-yard effort in the season opener against Colorado power Cherry Creek (Greenwood Village), Cass has gone for 190, 121 and 195 yards in the last three games.
The latter came against one of the state's top-ranked teams in Cleveland (Rio Rancho), a game in which Cass had a 90-yard TD run. Cass is also Clovis' punt and kickoff returner, but apparently teams have gotten the memo that a poor kick is much better than the alternative — Cass getting his hands on the ball and returning one back to the end zone.
"Whoever kicks it to me, that's when I get the ball," Cass said. "But teams aren't kicking it to me, or if they are, it's probably by accident."
Whether he's making defenders miss with a highlight-reel move or accelerating past them, Cass never makes it a point to bring attention to himself.
"He'll do one of his typical spin moves in practice and leave one of the scout team guys flat on his face, and everyone giggles," Roanhaus said. "Then Kamal is almost apologetic for making the kid look bad."
Since the time he was 2 or 3, Cass has dreamed of making it to the NFL. That's why he carries himself with a no-nonsense attitude, works hard and trains with the thought that every carry could be his last.
Cass hasn't received an offer yet from any Division I FBS schools because of his lack of size to play running back in college.
"He's got size issues as far as the Division I level goes," Roanhaus said. "Teams want running backs to block 6-2, 6-3 linebackers, and Kamal doesn't have the size to do that right now. But he'll be fine wherever he goes. If he doesn't get a shot at running back, he can play slot receiver in a spread offense. He'll help some team out."
Indeed, Cass isn't too worried about his future college prospects. He's going to stick to his mantra that as long as he focuses on his love for the game and puts in the time, nothing can stop him from reaching his goal.
"I still feel like I can be a better player," he said. "I'm never happy with myself. Being good was never enough for me. Once I got to the varsity level, I wanted to be the best."
And so it is.