Momodou Mbye doesn’t have to look too far for motivation. It stares him in the face every single day.
The 23-year old former URI captain and Shea All-Stater from Pawtucket is currently a defensive back for the Green Bay Blizzards in the Indoor Football League (IFL).
The Wisconsin-based Blizzards practice and play in the Resch Center, which is directly across the street from Lambeau Field – home of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.
“Seeing that Packers stadium everyday….that’s a sign of motivation,” said Mbye. “All of the guys here… that’s exactly what we are trying to get to right there. Seeing that huge stadium…right across the street. That’s definitely motivation.”
It’s been a long journey to get to Green Bay. Playing indoor football is new to Mbye and certainly not how he envisioned his professional football career would begin, but he is making the most of the opportunity.
“I didn’t think I was going to be playing indoor football, but it’s football so I gave it a shot,” said Mbye.
“It’s electrifying. The first game when they called out our names..the introduction felt so crazy…smoke and steam came out everywhere. Coming out on the field, feeling the vibes and hearing the crowd. It’s pretty exciting.”
The game is different from the traditional football Mbye has played all his life. There are only eight players on the field. Four offensive players must line up on the line of scrimmage. Three defensive players must be down linemen. One linebacker may blitz on either side of the center.
“One thing (indoor football) is really fast paced,” he said. “That was my biggest adjustment. I like to take my time and sometimes I like to bait the quarterback. In indoor you can’t do that …you don’t have time. You have to get to your spot right away.”
He’s adjusted quickly. The 6’0, 190 pound defensive back is off to a good start for the 3-3 Blizzards, who play a 16-game regular schedule including eight home games at 10,200 seat Resch Center. In five games he has had more than 25 tackles, two interceptions and several pass breakups. He had 12 tackles against the Massachusetts Pirates.
“I’m definitely happy and proud how quickly I’ve become accustomed to the game. I already feel like I know where I have to be and what I have to do at every play,” said Mbye. “Now it’s just about continuing to build my confidence and using my God-given talent and keep balling. I know what I can do on the field. It’s just a matter of going out there fully focused and not letting anything get in my way and keep paving forward.”
Mbye’s road has been long and challenging. But he has never given up on his dream of playing professional football. Mbye has worked out on and off the field – training every day and sending out videos with the hopes of catching the attention of a pro team willing to give him a shot..
“It’s been a really long journey,” said Mbye. “I was a year and half out of (competitive) football. I just kept training and sending videos out from Coach Stanley’s (Dunbar) workouts … really just trying to hear from anyone. I didn’t know when I was going to hear from anyone, but I just had to stay ready.”
“Momodou is what professional football organizations look for in players,” said Dunbar, who runs Breakthrough Football Academy and worked with Mbye and several other pro hopefuls last summer. “He has the skill, athleticism, size and character. He’s one of the best raw athletes I’ve worked with. Momo has the work ethic to continue to refine his craft and he’s one of the nicest guys I know. Sky’s the limit for Momo. He should continue to focus on daily excellence and being great where he is and allow those bigger opportunities to present themselves. They certainly will and I’ll be watching and rooting for him every step of the way.”
Mbye’s hard work has paid off. In March, he attended the invitation-only National Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. He proved he was ready for the next level.
“I put up some good numbers,” added Mbye. “I definitely was feeling good and knew I had more in me. I had another month to train before my pro day. I was excited about putting up even better numbers and showing what I could do.”
But he never got the chance. His pro day was cancelled due to Covid-19.
Mbye returned home, continued to train and began working at Jordan’s Furniture where his primary role was to handle merchandise. Moving heavy furniture actually became part of his workout.
“Working at Jordan’s was good. It actually helped me a lot,” said Mbye. “I was able to move around and keep my body fit. It was the perfect job for me. Sitting around just trying to train wasn’t enough and I needed some extra cash. Worked out perfectly.”
Moving his opponents – not furniture – remained his focus.
Late spring, he got the call from his agent offering Mbye a chance to play for the Blizzard. He jumped at the opportunity. It would not be glamorous. He would live in a hotel and often spend 10 hours on a bus traveling to away games. None of that mattered to Mbye.
“I’m happy to be here and to be playing,” said Mbye. “I’m just going to keep working to improve.”
He said the support he receives from his friends, family and former coaches keeps him moving forward.
“Especially Coach Camp,” said Mbye, referring to Shea High Coach Dino Campopiano. “He is always cheering me on. All people back home believe I have the skill and hard work ethic to get to the next level. That means a lot and motivates me.”
Campopiano is confident Mbye has the ability to reach his dream and one day play in the NFL.
“I’m so proud of him. With his work ethic and talent, I believe he will make it. He will do whatever it takes to get there,” said Campopiano.
“Right now I just give it my all,” said Mbye “You never know what is going to happen. Someone might be watching one of my games and be willing to give me a chance. The goal is to just keep working hard and hope I get a chance.”