Advocate photo by CANAAN CALDWELL -- Christian Life head football coach Ben Palmer and Jacob Kobodi.

While most guys his age are asleep at around 11 p.m., Christian Life Academy running back Jacob Kibodi enjoys working out at his parents’ house, by doing pushups, sit-ups, lifting weights or running outside to improve his technique.

“A lot of people say they want to be great but don’t have that work ethic,” Kibodi said. “I’m not bragging on myself or anything, but I feel like work I hard and I’m hungry to get better every day.”

Kibodi’s work ethic paid off after not playing football, but playing cymbals for CLA’s high school band his freshman year. It only took the first football game of the season to realize he wanted to be on the football field instead of the stands. He went to his band director that following Monday and told him he could no longer be a part of band because he wanted to play football.

After Crusaders coach Ben Palmer tried to convince Kibodi to play before he stepped foot at CLA, he joined the football team and made an impact ever since.

When Kibodi was born on Oct. 4 1998, doctors recommended his mother have an abortion because his body wasn’t growing the proper way and he would be diminutive if she had him. The news hit his parents hard. His mother was distraught, but his father was the one who encouraged her and told her that everything would be alright through their faith in God. Now Kibodi is a 6-foot-2, 205 pounds.

He is close to his parents. His father, Bernard Kibodi, is from Congo, and he preached a strong work ethic to Kibodi as a child. His mother, Meta Kibodi, like her son, is always smiling and has a huge heart. His parents made sacrifices for him and his siblings so they could have a positive life and have the opportunities to pursue who they wanted to be.

“My dad always taught me nothing comes easy in life, and that I have to work hard at everything I want,” Kibodi said. “My dad does plumbing and owns several rental properties so he works all day. And many nights he comes home at one or two o’clock in the morning. Seeing him work long hours makes me want to work harder so one day my parents don’t have to work anymore.”

Kibodi has two brothers. His oldest brother, Uriah, attends Southern University and his younger brother, Caleb, is entering his freshman year at Christian Life. Caleb plays defensive back and is a running back just like his brother.

“Caleb has the potential to be a really good football player if he keeps working hard,” Kibodi said.

Kibodi remembers, as a fifth-grader, the first season he played for CLA’s middle school team. Kibodi lined up as a running back, and he scored four touchdowns that season. Fast forward six years later, he is a three-star running back, according Last year as a junior he had 1,166 all-purpose yards, averaged 11 yards per carry and scored 17 touchdowns.

Kibodi has played varsity since his freshman year. Kibodi has learned since the Crusaders tradition, which includes five NFL players — Michael Clayton, Rufus Alexander, Roshaun Matthews, Stefan LeFors and Dillon Farrell — in the past 20 years.

Palmer said that Kibodi was unanimously chosen as a team leader by his peers and says college coaches won’t have to baby-sit him on the next level because of the positive qualities he brings.

“When you put him on a football field, he is a fierce competitor,” Palmer said. “He wants the ball in his hands when the game is on the line. As a coach, you appreciate having that kind of confidence from a talented young man, especially when they aren’t arrogant or boastful about it.”

It can be hard to get noticed when you are at a small school that hasn’t had much success in recent years, Palmer said, so college coaches could have passed over Christian Life during their spring evaluation visits. However, this spring, CLA had 35 Division I colleges stop by to evaluate Kibodi.

“He is fast, but he doesn’t have “elite,” breakaway speed,” Palmer said. “He’s not going to break records on the track. But he has tremendous size, strength, the ability to press the line of scrimmage and an incredible one-cut in a zone scheme. He understands he is built more like Leonard Fournette, and people better get out of his way once he makes his cut headed downhill.”

Kibodi leads by example. Growing up, he always had that mindset that he doesn’t say one thing but do another.

An example was when CLA played against Springfield High School. It was the fourth quarter with less than two minutes left. His team faced a third-and-5 to move the chains to secure the victory.

When he approached the offensive line, he said, “I know we are tired, but let’s finish strong.” His offensive line responded and made a big hole that Kibodi ran through for a first down. CLA defeated Springfield 26-21.

Up until this year, Kibodi has also played wide receiver and defensive back as well as running back. Palmer said with him playing two other positions he really hasn’t learned the finer points of being a running back.

This summer he’s been through an offseason strength and speed improvement program. In the spring, he competed in track for the first time. His events included the high jump, 100 meters and 4x100 and 4x200 relays. Palmer said track helped Kibodi improve his football techniques and movement mechanics.

With Kibodi’s strong work ethic, his goal of breaking school rushing records is within reach.