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Football is family: Mazi & Kenya Smith break down special bond

"It just makes you want to play harder for real," Mazi told FOX 17
Posted at 7:52 AM, Dec 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-30 08:04:50-05

HOLLYWOOD, FL. — They say football is family. Family is everything for the Smith's.

Mazi Smith is a name you might recognize from his days at East Kentwood High School. Now as junior, he's a defensive tackle for the Michigan Wolverines, just one day away from playing in the College Football Playoff.

His mom, Kenya, has been with him every step of the way.

“The biggest cheerleader he could have," she said.

Kenya was wearing a mask when she said that, speaking with FOX 17 at the hotel where the players are staying in Hollywood, Florida. However, that didn't hit the smile on her face when talking about her son.

Mazi has worked his way up to becoming a starter with the team this season. The road to get there wasn't easy.

“It’s a lot of failing involved before you get good, and still rolling with the punches, and sticking it out," he told FOX 17.

Kenya has supported him the whole time, showing up at every single home game during Mazi's Michigan career - even if it makes her sick.

“All the time.," she said. "I get butterflies, even coming down here my stomach was upset. Yes, I do get nervous watching him play.”

Kenya said that feeling is completely worth it, just to be able to see her son growing right before her eyes.

“As a mom, I can’t believe that I have a real life athlete," she said. "He’s really turned into an awesome athlete.”

Mazi embraces the support.

“She’s just happy I’m able to live out all my dreams, because she knows how much I love the game," he said. "She knows how much I always wanted to be part of a great team.”

The Wolverines are no doubt a great team. Mazi's best teammate, though, might be one who never touches the field.

It carries off the field as well - Mazi said Kenya puts a huge emphasis on education. Right now, he's a Creative Writing major at the University of Michigan, hoping to one day be a screenwriter for movies, write lyrics for songs or become a poet.

His favorite poet is Langston Hughes.

Safe to say, Mazi and Kenya are both hoping for a poetic end to this season.

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