Football star plans to focus on business in college

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BRATTLEBORO — In September Cheick Diakite, Brattleboro Union High School Class of 2017, will be attending Bentley University, in Waltham, Mass., and playing football there. Although he also applied to other colleges, Bentley offered him a full scholarship based on both his academic record and his athletic achievements.

"They recruited me," Diakite said in an interview. "I sent them an email showing them a video of my football games and then they replied, showing their interest, and then they started recruiting me. They asked me to apply to the school and we went through that whole process."

He has attended Brattleboro schools since he entered the third grade at Academy School when his family came to Brattleboro from Mali. He focused his athletic interest on soccer until he was in the eighth grade at Brattleboro Area Middle School. It took him some time to get used to football.

"Some of my friends wanted me to try it out so I joined the team," he recalled. "At first I didn't like it because I didn't know what was going on."

However, Diakite found that he enjoyed the game.

"I liked the environment, and that everyone's got each other's back — and the hitting and the contact," he commented.

During his career playing football at BUHS, Diakite played several positions.

"I play fullback, halfback, linebacker, and defensive end," he said. "I like halfback the most because you get the ball and you have full control of wherever you want to go. The other defense is trying to get you, and you have to try to escape from it."

He said that he was aware of recent news about the risk of concussion for football players.

"I definitely think about concussions a lot because as a running back you're constantly getting hit in the head, but I try to take good care of my body and get the rest that I need to take care of all that," he said. "It's always in my mind, how my body's feeling during the game, so if I know that I'm feeling a little off or dizzy, then I'll take a little break. I got rhabdomyelosis, a muscle breakdown, overworking your muscles and overworking your body in general, and it causes the muscle to break down and attack your kidneys, but you can treat it well, which I've been doing."

Diakite has devoted enormous amounts of time to playing football. He estimated that he spends 15 hours per week during the football season, and 20 hours per week out of season. Those work-habits will serve him well at Bentley.

"We have morning practice and workout, and afternoon practice and workout during the season," he said. "Out of the season, we'll have four days a week in workouts."

As a Division 2 college, Bentley takes its sports seriously, but that commitment was only one element in Diakite's decision to enroll there.

"They had a decent record last year, but I like them because academically they're top-notch for business programs," he said. "I had the chance to go to different ones, but Bentley had the best academics for later on, after football, so that's why I chose them."

He plans to major in business, with a minor in French, which he spoke in Mali and continues to pursue on his own.

"I've been reading, and it will be an advantage in the business world," he commented. "I plan to major in business management and operations. [Bentley is] known for that, and the median salary for that major specifically is $124,000.

"The majority of my family are business-oriented, and that's kind of what drove me into that field," he continued.

His family has strongly influenced him in other ways as well.

"Freshman year, mainly, I wasn't hanging out with a good crowd — they wanted to fit in and do drugs and not pay attention in school, so I was fitting in with that crowd and not paying attention in school either," he recalled. "Sophomore year was when I realized that that was not what I want for me, and my grandfather was a role-model, a Ph.D. professor. I would be a disgrace to him, so I changed my whole mindset and moved away from that crowd."

He said that he always appreciated the Brattleboro community and BUHS.

"I liked that it was an open-minded school — there wasn't exclusion," he said. "It was a nice community. I like how the teachers try to help you succeed. I have family members in New York, and they go to schools that aren't as nice; there are gangs and all that type of things going on.

"I just like to tell young kids that have doubts about how life is going to be in four years, if they have any doubts because life might not seem so good right now, to stay focused, have a goal, and do anything you need to in order to achieve that goal," he concluded. "And also to set a good foundation, hang out with people who will help you go places, not people who will bring you down or slow you down."

Maggie Brown Cassidy, a frequent contributor to the Reformer, can be reached at mcassidy@sover.net.

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