He was coming home from a Providence gym when his cell phone rang.
“Initially, I didn’t know who it was,” said Momodou Mbye, flashing back to the summer of 2015. “Regardless of who it was, I still answered.”
On the other end was a football assistant coach – Ari Confesor – from the University of Rhode Island.
“I was so tired from my workout that I wasn’t even sure what he (Confesor, currently an assistant at Air Force) was talking about,” said Mbye, a Pawtucket native and graduate of the city’s Shea High School.
In no time, Mbye perked up.
“Basically URI was going to give me an opportunity to join the team,” said Mbye. “He (Confesor) asked if I could show up the next morning. I ended up telling my mother. Without any hesitation, she said, ‘I’ll bring you in the morning.’
“I packed my bag, went to bed, and when morning came, I was ready.”
From roster invitee to full scholarship recipient (after initially joining the Rams as a walk-on), to unanimously being voted a captain by his teammates heading into the 2019 season … they don’t make success stories any sweeter or satisfying than Mbye.
His story is one in which perseverance is its own reward.
A scholarship player over the past three seasons, Mbye has earned the well-deserved reputation as a major disruptor on defense. Entering Saturday’s game at Albany, Mbye – a redshirt senior who’s listed as one of two starting safeties on the Rams’ depth chart – has notched eight career interceptions along with six fumble recoveries.
This season, Mbye recorded one interception in each of the first four games – he’s tied for first in the CAA in INTs and tied for third in the same category among all FCS participants – and through six games ranks third on URI’s defensive unit with 41 total tackles.
Despite all his stat-stuffing accomplishments and the well-deserved recognition that accompanies the glitzy numbers, Mbye refuses to lose sight of his own personal belief system.
“It was about me trusting that all my hard work was going to get me somewhere,” said Mbye, the only URI player in program history who’s in the top-10 for both interceptions and fumble recoveries.
Mbye shared a story about the time his high school principal singled him out at a school assembly “for working hard when the lights aren’t on. For me, it was a blessing how everything has worked out.
I could have stopped playing football, but I kept pushing and pushing some more. My high school football coach (Shea’s Dino Campopiano) kept me on the right path and I was able to make things happen once I got to URI.”
From his perch on the field, Mbye has a clear view of what the opposing offense is seeking to accomplish. It’s his job to make sure everyone in a URI uniform is lined up in the correct spot. When things start to get chaotic, Mbye sets out to make sure things don’t go too awry.
One particular play from earlier this season exemplifies what Mbye brings to the table. On the second play of the second quarter of URI’s Sept. 28 home game against Stony Brook, the opposing quarterback (Tyquell Fields) sprang out on a bootleg, his sights set on scoring from four yards out.
In no time, Mbye picked up the route. Mbye collided with Fields at the 1-yard line and was awarded a forced fumble that was recovered by fellow URI safety Brian Campbell. It was a touchdown-saving sequence that’s become pretty common to those who have watched Mbye blossom into a dependable contributor.
“I saw the quarterback was on the run so I tried to fan out and help my cornerback,” said Mbye. “(Fields) was sprinting to the right and I wanted him to throw the ball, but he didn’t. At that point, it was about wrapping him up as quickly as possible.”
“He’s been doing it for many years,” offered URI head coach Jim Fleming after the aforementioned game against Stony Brook.
A health studies major, Mbye is intrigued with becoming a social worker upon graduating next spring. He’s also drawn to carving out a niche as a trainer.
“It’s weighing the different options that I have and seeing what represents the best fit,” said Mbye.
As Mbye approaches the home stretch of his URI playing career, he does so keenly aware of the chance he has to pay it forward to those walking the same Shea High hallways that he once did.
“From where I come from, not too many guys believe in themselves. Whenever I go to Shea games, people will come up to me and ask what it takes to get to this level. I always tell them that it comes down to hard work and just how bad you want it,” said Mbye. “If you really want something, you’ve got to go get it. You’ve got to reach for the skies.
“Coach Campopiano, he was like a father figure to me. I fell in love with the way he coached us and the way he led us. That definitely helped me to get to where I’m at today,” added Mbye. “If guys have the same opportunity that I have had to get here, they better be ready to take full advantage of it.”
2019 YurView URI Football Broadcast Schedule:
- Sept. 7 – Delaware, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 28 – Stony Brook, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 26 – Elon, 1 p.m.
- Nov. 2 – Merrimack, 1 p.m.
- Nov. 23 – James Madison, 12 p.m.