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2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview: Ky’el Hemby, S, Southern Miss

Ky’el Hemby has been a ballhawk and great tackler at safety in Southern Mississippi’s defense. He recently sat down with NFL Draft Diamonds writer Jimmy Williams.
  • Name: Ky’el Hemby
  • Height: 6’0”
  • Weight: 211 lbs
  • Position: S
  • College: University of Southern Mississippi
  • Twitter: @Asap_koddie
  • Instagram: 1koddie

Talk about your experience as a student. What is your major/minor? Did you participate in any other activities or campus organizations other than football?
Out of high school, I went to Iowa Western, and then transferred to Southern Miss in 2018. I majored in Sports Management. I learned about how games are run behind the scenes with things like security and concessions. It really made me appreciate the people that do those jobs. I was also part of the Student Athletics Leadership Council at Southern Miss.

What do your teammates say is your best quality?
My best quality has to be my leadership and how I am able to get along with everyone. I have mostly led by example during my college career, although this past season, I took on more of a vocal role. I always attack the day with a positive attitude and help others when I can. I will hold myself as well as everyone else accountable. I am a selfless guy with a team first mentality.

What kind of role do you see yourself in on the team? What scheme and/or position suits your skill set?
Throughout my career, I’ve always been known as a “do it all” guy. One of my best attributes is that I’m very versatile. I can play CB, S or LB. I’m a true rover/strong safety. I’ll roll down in the box and play the nickel LB position in certain schemes. I embrace my role as the leader on the field. I’ve been the QB of the defense echoing calls, checks, keys, etc.  I love being aggressive and tackling. I take pride in my technique and tackle well in space. I’m confident that any team could convert me to nearly any position of need on the defense. I bring a lot of energy and swagger.

My first season at Southern Miss (2018), I was 2nd in the country in Ints. During my 2018 season, I averaged a half an Int a game picking up 6 Ints on the season. I’m a ballhawk that can tackle and cover. I can guard TE’s and WR’s as well as play over top in a Cover 3.

I’ve also consistently been a major factor on special teams starting all throughout my career. I played kickoff and punt every year and was the gunner on punt. I’ve also been the one blocking the gunner on returns. I have the speed to get downfield and be a good contributor in many facets of the game.

Who is the best player you have ever played against in college?
In 2019, we played one of the best teams in football in Alabama. There were so many stars and future first round picks on that team. Tua Tagovailoa was their leader and had the ability to put the ball wherever he wanted. Those WRs were also elite with guys like Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith

The best player that I played against in our conference was QB Mason Fine of North Texas. Our coaches were always dialed in and didn’t play around when we faced him. He was a dangerous player with the ability to make amazing plays with his arm or his feet. Fine is playing for the Roughriders in the CFL right now. They got a great steal in him.

Which one of your teammates impresses you the most?
There are so many guys that have impressed me. Going back to my JUCO days, I played with Daviyon Nixon and just knew he was going to be great. He’s a big kid with great size, talent and a good work ethic.

Here at Southern Miss, I was able to go one-on-one with WR Tim Jones a lot. We got really close during my time there. We were able to get the best out of one another and help the other prepare for games. We have a lot of great talent coming up. Jacques Turner is my guy, and I expect him to make big plays in 2021. Santrell Latham is a dog of a LB that you have to watch out for.

Frank Gore Jr. is probably the teammate that impresses me the most. It’s interesting because I see his father every day that I’m training. I’m very close with Frank Jr. and I remember telling Frank Sr. that his son is legit. Gore burst onto the scene this past year as a freshman. The sky’s the limit on his next few years and where he can go with this game.

Describe a time in your life when you were able to overcome a struggle.
My whole JUCO experience was the biggest struggle that I overcame. I was underrecruited coming out of high school. I didn’t necessarily take school as seriously as I would have liked to. I had a big decision about where I was going to go, JUCO, D2, D3. My high school coach knew the recruiting coordinator at Iowa Western. Feeling that was my best option, I went out to Iowa. I didn’t want to settle, but I took what I was given and made the best of it.

That first year at Iowa Western, I redshirted which was rough. I had played football every year since I was 4 and now was told to sit on the sidelines for a year. I had to keep up with my drive and continue to hustle. I also had to keep my mind straight. You see those players struggle on Last Chance U. Being far from home, it’s so easy to give up. I saw a lot of guys around me quit, but I just kept up with my grind. There was a giant hill next to my dorm, and I would run that hill all by myself. I was at the bottom of the bottom but I never folded.

After getting my opportunity to play at Iowa Western, I put together a good enough season to be named Second Team All-American. I got the attention of several D1 schools. Southern Miss was one of my first offers. They treated me very well on my visit, and it just felt right.

I still carry that chip on my shoulder after going the JUCO route and being passed over by FBS schools. That whole experience humbled me and shaped me into the man I am today. Getting that scholarship gave me a lot of confidence. I carried that chip on my shoulder over from JUCO to D1. You can see that swagger when you put on the tape.

If you didn’t play football, what other sport would you play?
In high school, I ran track and played basketball. Although, I always wanted to play soccer. I’m a big FIFA guy, and played pick up soccer in high school whenever I could. I just never played because it was going on at the same time as football.

What is something that you are most proud of? What would you say is your biggest achievement?
I’m very proud of who I’ve become and where football has taken me. I’m proud that I remained humble and stayed focused. I graduated from both JUCO and Southern Miss. I was able to excel in football and shape myself into a better man. I was blessed with invites to the East West Shrine Bowl, College Gridiron Showcase, and the Hula Bowl. How many people can say that they were able to go to Hawaii for free? That was an amazing experience. I also got the chance to meet Hall of Fame players like Mike Singletary.

Describe one of the most memorable plays of your collegiate career.
One of my best moments was when I had a clutch interception in our game against UAB in 2018. They did a reverse flea flicker pass, and it fooled almost everyone on the field including me. I was running one way, and then I saw the runner flick the ball back. Out of my peripheral, I saw a TE open down field, and I ran and jumped it for the interception. We were by our sideline and everyone cleared the benches and came onto the field. It was one of my most memorable plays. One of our graduate assistants said that he was so glad that they found me. I’m glad that I made the big play and was worth every bit of the scholarship that they paid for.

Do you have a favorite athlete or professional team? Is there a player that you model your game after?
My favorite athlete of all-time is Kobe Bryant. As for football, Ed Reed is my idol. I would be so excited to meet him. I’m a big-time Ravens fan. I model my game after many different players, being a ballhawk like Ed Reed and Tyrann Matheiu, having the nastiness like Jamal Adams, and being a hard hitter like Sean Taylor and Troy Polamalu.

Who is your favorite music artist? What gets you pumped before a game?
My favorite music artist is Meek Mill. Yet, when it comes to game time, I like to listen to calmer music to help get my mind focused. I like to listen to a song called “Closer” by Goapele. It’s like the calm before the storm that I’ll unleash on the field.

What is your favorite comfort food?
I’m from Maryland and love my seafood whether it be crabs, crab cakes or salmon. My mom knows a guy that catches crabs out by the bay, and we get them fresh. One of the better seafood restaurants in town is Conrad’s.

Do you have a favorite movie, TV show or actor?
My favorite TV show is Ridiculousness. One of my favorite actors is Kevin Hart. My favorite movie is Juice with Tupac.

What do you do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies? Any secret talents?
I like to relax, sit back, maybe watch TV and play video games like Madden, Call of Duty, GTA and 2K or even reading at times. I love to spend time with my family in my spare time. I enjoy dancing and singing with my family. 

Who or what motivates you the most?
Being the underdog and coming out on top motivates me every day. I’m out to prove my doubters and haters wrong. Doubters are one of my favorite motivators.

My family, girlfriend and former coaches are also huge motivators. My family believed in me when no one else did. Their endless support and love play a huge role in my success. My girlfriend drives me to stay focused, and I’m thankful that she has been around me for a while. She’s a real rare one. My former coaches believed in me and put me on the right path. Their belief in me helps motivate me to be better.

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