Off The Field

Senior Malik O’Atis is named SMNW Student Athlete of the month for his leadership


Kara Simpson

Running back Malik O’Atis is named one of the two named Student Athlete of the Month for September for his leadership both on and off the field.

Morgan Tate

Running back Malik O’Atis was scared. And O’atis isn’t often scared. 

The Cougars were up 31-28, but the Lawrence Free State Firebirds were attempting a comeback. The clock was down to the wire. On the second down, the Firebirds tossed the ball to their receiver but outside linebacker Marcus Estrada picked off the pass, preventing a Firebird touchdown.

The Cougars pulled off the win.

Winning after the 51-0 loss to Mill Valley is what O’Atis considers one of his jobs on the team. He motivates the team to improve and come back from losses. This leadership is one of the reasons O’Atis is the September Student Athlete of the Month. 

Once a month, coaches nominate players for the honor. The nominations go to Athletic Director Angelo Giacalone who makes the final decisions.

“On the playing field, the things they do speak for them,” Giacalone said. “In the community and throughout, they are upstanding citizens. They have great integrity, positive work ethic and great accountability. The coaches thought they exhibited great leadership qualities.” 

O’Atis works to be a motivational leader to his fellow players. Football players don’t get many chances. If they mess up one week, they need to move on and do their best the next week. Treat it like their final game. 

“We try not to dwell on losses,” O’Atis said. “We just make sure we keep everybody up and let everybody know, ‘You have to worry about next weekend. As soon as Friday is over, we’re back.’”

O’Atis also leads by demonstrating the core values of the team and being a model for other players to follow. 

“I try being a leader by making sure everybody knows what to do, being on time for class and holding up our core values which are respect, accountability, spirit and relentless effort,” O’Atis said. 

He also shows those values off the field as well as preventing football from interfering with his academics. He uses the energy and discipline that football requires of him during school hours.

“Some of the core values from a football game carryover to school,” O’Atis said. “On game days, I’m trying to lock it in for the game, while also making sure I get all my work done.”

He works to live up to the examples set by Cougar football players he’s known in the past. 

O’atis gazes at the wall with all the past team members. He looks up to players such as Ty Black, Jesse Mitchell, Duke Henke and Ty Lindenman. As he studies their images, he knows that his picture will join theirs on that wall.