At 9 years old, Keba Agostinho quickly found out the best way to entertain his classmates.
The young boy watched the movie “Rush Hour,” then memorized some of Chris Tucker’s one-liners.
Agostinho — now a true freshman defensive end for Kansas University — would go to school the next day, walk up to a group of his classmates, then repeat one of Tucker’s sayings. His classmates all would laugh.
Agostinho started to feel better about himself — even though he had no clue what he had just said.
It’s not easy to be outgoing when you don’t even speak your classmates’ language.
“All my friends would talk, so everyday, I’d listen to what they’d say,” Agostinho said. “And sometimes I’d hear a word and guess what it means by the way the person would act when they said it.”
Agostinho — along with his parents and three younger siblings — moved to Texas from the south-central African country of Angola when Keba was 9.
Keba’s father, Kadima, was a petroleum engineer at Chevron, and after years of splitting his time between Angola and Houston, he decided it would be best to move his family to the United States.
Keba had already grown accustomed to the lifestyle in Angola. Many days, he’d play barefoot soccer and basketball outside with his friends. His family had a TV in its home, though its channels were limited to those that were retrievable from an antenna.
Though the American airport looked much like the one in Angola, Keba still remembers the drive to his new home on his first day in the United States.
“Everything was different,” Keba said. “The buildings are different. I’m used to seeing a lot of people outside, and when I got to Texas, really there’s not many people outside.”
When starting out at school, half of his classes were English as Second Language courses, while the other half were normal classes taught in English.
One of Keba’s biggest challenges was trying to learn without understanding his teachers.
“I just sat there and watched pretty much,” Keba said. “Later on, I didn’t have that problem any more.”
Keba picked up the language quickly. Within six months, he could understand most of what was being said to him. A year after that, he was nearly fluent.
“Me and my brothers and my sister learned it pretty fast, because we were still little kids,” Keba said. “But if we were older when we came up here, it would have been a lot harder.”
Agostinho also has shown the ability to play catch-up in football.
The 6-foot-3, 253-pounder from Katy, Texas, missed the final eight games of his junior season in high school, breaking his arm after a teammate accidentally crashed into him on a tackle.
His junior-year tape — one of the most important tools used by college coaches to evaluate talent — was limited.
“I just tried to stay positive,” Agostinho said. “Instead of thinking about how I might not get offers, I might as well work hard and do good my senior year. That way, I’ll get some.”
Agostinho brought attention back to himself his senior year, posting 78 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, eight sacks and five forced fumbles for James Taylor High School.
Texas A&M — and then-defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt — originally had interest in Agostinho, but that ended when the Aggies ran out of scholarships to give.
When Wyatt accepted a position on KU’s staff in January, he called up Agostinho, who officially signed with KU in February following a campus visit a week earlier.
Agostinho’s career has progressed quickly since. In mid-August, Wyatt told the freshman in a meeting that KU was going to play him this season instead of red-shirting him.
Then last Saturday, against North Dakota State, Agostinho played in four series (or about 20 plays), recording a quarterback hurry.
Much like the past, Agostinho expects to transition quickly to his new setting — this one being Div. I football.
“I had to get the rust off,” Agostinho said. “I feel like, now that my first game is over with, it will be easier for me the rest of the season and other games to come.”