Stay quiet and absorb. Pay attention. That’s how you learn. That is Malik Monteiro’s motto.
A 6′ foot, 175 pound quarterback and senior captain of the Central High football team, Monteiro lights up the room with his grand, infectious smile. He pulls off his hoodie and his trademark long braids that were hidden now drape down his back. On each wrist he wears a black rubber bracelet given to him by 12 year-NFL veteran and RI native Will Blackmon.
“They give me superpowers,” laughed Monteiro.
A hashtag in large bold white letters wraps around on the bracelets: #PROVE THEM WRONG
Monteiro already has.
He is a four year-starting quarterback for the only Providence school that plays in Division I, the state’s highest and most competitive division
“In most games we play in this division, we go in as the underdogs so when we win, it’s a big deal,” he said
Central Coach Peter Rios: “Mailk gives us the best chance to win. We go as far as he takes us.”
It has been that way since Monteiro’s freshman year when the Central senior captain and quarterback went down with an injury in just the second game of the season. Rios called on Monteiro, his backup quarterback; a 14 year-old freshman.
The rookie led the Knights to the Division I Super Bowl. He’s been the starting QB ever since.
“Malik is the only four-year starting quarterback I have ever had at Central,” said Rios. “He has taken us to the playoffs two of the last three years and hoping to make it a third year this year.”
Monteiro enters his final season with the Knights after earning second team All-State and First Team All-Division honors as a junior. This year, the Knights are 2-2 and with a long way remaining in the regular season, Central still has its sights set on the playoffs.
“We go as far has Malik goes. There is a lot of pressure on Malik,” said Rios “Malik is battle tested. He can throw. He can run. He can do it all. He is the four-time MVP of our team.”
Like many who have grown up in the inner city, he and his teammates have had their share of challenges.
“We know there is gang presence,” said Rios. “We tell our kids the best gang to be a part of is sports and our team. We are a family and we love each and every one of our family members. We support each other.
“We also teach our players to do their best on the field and in the classroom. If they do that they will be amazed at what the future holds,” said Rios.
Monteiro paid strong attention to those words. He is as competitive and as focused in the classroom as he is on the football field. He is a straight A student…has been for the majority of his high school career. Wrap that around a strong football career and the attention from colleges is abundant. Brown Princeton, Cornell and Yale have shown interest. So have UConn and Bryant.
Now, a kid from Central, who at one point has made his home in a public housing complex, has interest from nearly a half dozen Ivy League Schools.
“Malik is a great student and a great athlete. If he goes to an Ivy League school, I believe he would be my first player from Central to go to an Ivy,” said Rios.
“I’m not a brainiac,” said Monteiro. “I pay attention and I absorb. The best way to learn is to be quiet and listen. (Central volunteer) Coach Connor taught me that.”.
“In school I compete like it’s a football field,” said Monteiro. “If I see A, A, A on my report card and then there is a B in the middle it bothers me. I have to get an A. My mindset is just like I have to make the pass on the football field, I have to make that A in the classroom.”
His mom is his hero. His dad lives in Atlanta. He has never been to one of Monteiro’s games.
“I’m not worried about that. I am not going to force anyone to do anything they don’t want to go. I have tunnel vision. My focus is on my mom,” said Monteiro.
Jean Monteiro works two jobs to care for her son and make sure he has every single thing he needs. Her strength is what motivates Monteiro.
“My mom is the reason I actually play football and get good grades,” he said. “You know, living in this type of community…kids dying and minorities being held at a stereotype… It’s just that my mom…I see her struggle. She is the strongest person on this entire planet. I have seen her make dust into food for me.
“She works two jobs and gets no rest and keeps working,” Monteiro added. “So if you’re telling me I can’t get straight As in a classroom and make it to college and she’s doing all that…she’s bending over backwards for me…then there is something wrong.”
So he works as hard in the classroom as he does on the field. He stays focused on and out of trouble.
“My mom always said ‘if I let you go outside and you do something you’re not supposed to be doing, that’s disrespecting me.’ I NEVER want to disrespect her,” he said. “She emphasizes respect.”
As the leader of the Knights, Monteiro knows there are people – from college coaches to youth players – following his every move.
“People are watching me. You can’t control everything. Things happen, but you can control yourself. You have to make the best decisions,” said Monteiro.
So Monteiro turns down invitations to parties and spends time at home watching Netflix and trying to perfect his latest passion – Chess.
“I love Chess. I am learning, learning, learning. I compare it to football. I strategize, move my guys around and plan my attack. And when I am out on the field I am playing a chess game. Who is going to make the first move?
He compares his teammates to the pieces on the chess board. “When I am the King, I treat Nado (Ranado McKay) like a Queen because he can do anything,” explained Monteiro. “Dahmir Lassiter is the Rook because he moves from side to side. Eber (Jallah) is the Bishop, a straight-forward guy… and David Toure, well, he is the Knight because he is so strong. John Polanco is the Pawn because he is so sneaky out there on the field, He will eliminate you and keep moving. This list goes on…”
Most of all, Chess, like football, has taught Monteiro many things that he will take with him long after he graduates from Central.
“I use Chess as a guidance in football and life,” said Monteiro. “Chess and football build character, humility and patience.”
Monteiro has known since he was 12 years-old that he wants to study business in college. He’ll wait until after the season to focus on his college choices.
“If I focus on ME, then WE don’t win,” said Monteiro. “For now, my focus is on my team and trying to win every game and make the playoffs. There’s plenty of time to focus on me when the season is over.”
“Malik leads in the classroom and on the field. He is a role model and an inspiration to others from the inner city,” said Mike Washington, who assists the Knights along with Charlie Holliday. “He is changing the narrative of student-athletes from Providence. He leads by example. The Providence youth can see that and say, “if he can do that, why can’t I?”
Catch the Shea @ East Providence football game on YurView LIVE Saturday morning October 19th at 11:00am on Cox Channel 4 and streaming on YurView.com.