When Micah Kiser was much younger, his father took him to a football scrimmage involving several teams in western Baltimore County in Maryland.
A large crowd of children was there, all hoping one day to have careers in football.
Michael Kiser said to his son, ‘Micah, I know you love football. But I want you to look around at all these kids, and these are just from western Baltimore County. Think of all the kids from the other side of Baltimore. Think of all the kids from Maryland, and Maryland is one of the smallest states. Think of all the kids across the nation who think they’re going to make it in football.
‘It’s great to have dreams, but you need to get your education first.’”
As he always does, Micah listened.
Throughout his career, Micah has listened to his parents, his teachers and his coaches. He has taken his many gifts — intelligence, athletic ability, adaptability and the instinct to make the right decisions on and off the field — and made his best efforts to get the most from each.
So far, so good.
Earlier this month, Micah was the recipient of the William V. Campbell Award, also known as the academic Heisman Trophy, given to the college football player who exemplifies the best of all possible traits on the field, in the classroom, and in the community.
Several weeks ago, Micah received the Dudley Award from the Richmond Touchdown Club, recognizing him as the state’s outstanding Division I football player.
“We’re always looking for players who have ‘it,’” said Mike London, former head coach at University of Virginia who recruited and worked with Micah for three seasons.
London now is head coach at Howard University.
“Micah Kiser is ‘it,’” London said. “He’s a very smart football player. He’s the epitome of what a leader is.
“There are all the things he did behind the scenes, in the weight room and in the community, things that no one sees. He communicates well. He’s a very discerning young man. He is an outstanding young man.”
This does not occur in a vacuum. Micah Kiser was not just handed these awards. There was a considerable investment made not just by the young man, but also by a number of people who helped Kiser get where he is today.
No investment was larger than that made by his parents, Michael and Donna.
Yes, they invested money to send him to one of the best private schools in Baltimore, Gilman School.
“I would just say he did not go there on a discount,” Michael said, laughing. “It was quite expensive. But we looked at it as our investment in Micah, as well as his brother Jordan, who also went there.
“It’s the best private school in Baltimore, maybe in all of Maryland. We knew he would do well there. We knew he would excel.”
Micah attended Gilman from the sixth grade through high school. Jordan, a singer and performer, attended Gilman through middle school, then went to the Baltimore School for the Arts. He now is a musical theatre major at the University of Miami.
Money might have been the least of the investments Michael and Donna made in their children.
Most of all, they invested their time.
“My mom has always been supportive,” Micah said. “My dad has always been my hero. I always wanted to be like my dad. Growing up, he was Superman to me. I’ve always wanted to live up to his expectations and exceed them. I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far.”
Yeah, not bad. Micah has been first-team all ACC for the past three seasons. This year, he leads the ACC in tackles and is fourth in the nation. He has been a pivotal player in Virginia’s 6-6 record, an improvement over the 2-10 mark of 2016. He helped the Cavaliers earn an invitation to the Military Bowl on Thursday against the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
The Sporting News selected him for its first-team All-America squad and Kiser was a second-team All-America selection by The Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America, USA Today, College Football News, SB Nation and the Walker Camp Football Foundations.
Academically, Micah earned an undergraduate degree in foreign affairs in his first four years at Virginia — 3.4 GPA — and has spent the past semester in graduate school, pursuing a master’s degree in higher education, focusing on athletic administration.
He’ll put that on hold for now as he prepares for the NFL draft. Online or on campus, he will finish his graduate studies.
“He says he’s going to continue to learn,” Donna said.
Donna, 52 and a graduate of Winthrop College (now Winthrop University) is the clinical operations manager at the Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore.
Michael, 52 and a graduate of the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, is the director of MedStar Franklin Square Hospital in Maryland.
They haven’t done badly. But they wanted their sons to do even better, so a significant emphasis always has been placed on education. “Knowledge is power,” Donna said.
And while Michael appreciates the knowledge that he has been his son’s inspiration, Michael said, “Micah has always been my inspiration. He’s always been extremely smart and disciplined. It seemed like he could adapt to any sport, swimming, diving, lacrosse, football, basketball. Even around the house, working with me, it was always, ‘Dad, what do you need?’
“When I was putting in a new patio, Micah was with me picking up the water machine, the bags of cement, and I would say, ‘We’re going to figure out how to do this together.’ If I was building something, doing landscape work to get the yard ready for the summer, trimming trees, we were working side by side.
“Micah thought of me as Superman? The secret is to make them think you’re Superman. If you want to find out what makes your kids work, put your kids first. Find out what they’re passionate about and invest in their passion. Do as much as you can with your kids.
“My sons would say, ‘Dad, where are your friends?’ I didn’t have time for friends. I had time for my kids. I didn’t just drop them off at practice. I stayed for practice. Micah and I went up and down the East Coast for lacrosse, fall ball, indoor season, outdoor season, practice after practice.”
The Kisers invested on the front end and the payoff is coming on the back end. Not that they had any type of payoff in mind. They simply wanted their sons to be happy and to put them in positions to succeed.
They are a family of faith and do not have to look far to see what can be reaped when properly sown.
“We always wanted to make sure we’re available,” Donna said. “We pride ourselves on the fact that there’s not much we’ve missed in their lives.
“I’ve broken the meter for saying I’m the proudest mom. We’re so thankful.”
The evidence is clear that Donna and Michael are not the only Kiser family members who have reason to be thankful.