When asked recently to assess her son’s collegiate stint, Sheila Malone deemed it necessary to allude to a super hero.
“He is and always will be Superman,” Malone said of her son, Keiwone Malone. “He has filled many roles on the team and has excelled at all them. He received the punt and made spectacular moves, scoring touchdowns and broke the high school records in Tennessee. He kicked the extra points and covered (opposing team’s) receivers. Using what gifts God has given him, he is my Superman.”
To grasp a full understanding of why Malone has dubbed her son arguably the most decorated super hero of all time, look no further than his slew of accomplishments in recent years, most notably during what was a remarkable tenure at the University of Memphis.
A native of Rosedale, Mississippi, Keiwone Malone emerged as arguably one of the best football players in the history of Memphis Mitchell High, considering he blossomed into one of Shelby-Metro’s most sought-after recruits for the Class of 2010.
Widely regarded as an “athlete” because of his versatility on both sides of the ball, Keiwone Malone was the catalyst of a Mitchell team that had become a fixture in the Class 5A playoffs for the better part of his tenure with the Tigers.
Add to the fact that Alabama’s Nick Saban was amongst the high-profile college coaches who inquired about Keiwone Malone’s services as a four-star recruit, and it’s no wonder this do-it-all athlete still believes he possesses the skills to — what else? — do it all at the professional ranks.
Less than one year removed from having completed his eligibility at the U of M, the 24-year-old Keiwone Malone doesn’t shy away from the notion that his primary focus now is to earn a spot on a professional football roster.
“If given a chance to play professional football, I will give it my all for the (organization) every day,” Keiwone Malone told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “I’ve always had dreamt at being the best at what I do, and I want to prove to people that size doesn’t matter.”
At 5-foot-11 ½ and 168-pounds, Keiwone Malone had proven time and again that his slim frame didn’t prevent him from enjoying success while playing major college football.
To his credit, he is amongst the biggest reasons the Memphis program — a doormat while enduring years of futility — has emerged as a national standout in recent years, considering he was one of Tiger quarterback Paxton Lynch’s best options.
After transferring from Alabama to Memphis to be close to his ailing grandmother, Keiwone Malone enjoyed a stellar career for the Tigers, given his numbers progressed considerably in each of his four seasons with the program.
He was especially resilient as a senior for a Memphis team that finished the 2014 campaign with seven consecutive wins (10-3), including a 55-48 double overtime win over Brigham Young in the Miami Beach Bowl.
Keiwone Malone led the Tigers in yards receiving with 45 catches for 555 yards and four touchdowns, while averaging better than 12 yards per receptions — surpassing his 44 receptions for 476 yards and three scores he registered as a sophomore.
All of which is why Lynch, a Heisman candidate who’s projected as a Top 10 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, was extremely high on Keiwone Malone during his time with the Tigers.
All of which is why this former Tiger standout, who had proven to master major college football, believes he stills possesses the skills and mechanics to earn a paycheck at the professional ranks.
“I’m sure every mom feels their son deserves a chance, but I feel (football) is his ministry,” Shelia Malone said. “He is not complete if he is not playing football. I am his coach at home, so I am constantly giving him pep talks and keep us both prayed up. I am also constantly trying to put him in positions that can get him that chance he deserves.”
Without question, many — including Lynch — who have followed Keiwone Malone’s rise from Mitchell to appearing on a major college football stage believe he’s armed with the finesse to perform for a pro team.
The biggest question at this point is will his golden opportunity come to fruition.
Just as he played his way to earning to scholarship to play at tradition-rich Alabama, Keiwone Malone isn’t ruling out hope.
“I’m dedicated,” he said. “I work hard and I’m not one to give up or half-ass. I’m open-minded to leaning new techniques and ways of winning. I have a great sense of humor. I’m a people person. I’ve never had a coach or player since pee-wee football dislike me or my play or actions on the field. I interact well with others, and I’m a very respectful man that knows how to motivate a team to win.”
Key attributes “Superman” prays pro scouts and general managers will take into account in the foreseeable future.
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Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.