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Bills’ Kouandijio learned resilience from older brother

By Tyler Dune

News Sports Reporter

This week, right tackle Cyrus Kouandjio will make his first career start in place of Seantrel Henderson, who suffered a concussion last week. The 6-foot-7, 322-pound Kouandjio, who moved to the states from Cameroon when he was 4 years old, was a second-round pick in the 2014 draft.

Your upbringing was different than anybody else here. How did that make you, knowing what your parents went through? I really have no excuse to be lazy because of all the stuff our family has been through. All that strengthens you and makes you push hard.

Who was your inspiration growing up? I’d say my older brother was. My brother, Arie. He plays for the Washington Redskins right now. He started playing football before I did and then I got into it. There was a time in my life, in middle school, when I thought about quitting football because I got tired of it. I wasn’t scoring points. In previous sports, like basketball and soccer, I was scoring points. In football, I was just blocking. But he told me to stay in there, pushed me to get scholarships. He went to a good school and then pushed me to go to a good school. He kept me on track too sometimes because he was a lot more stable than I was. He kept me out of trouble a lot.

What did you go through in trying to find that stability? Just growing up. Having more responsibility.

Being a lineman is such a shameless job, like you said. How did you embrace that? What goes into that process? It’s tough because as a lineman the only stats you have are how many sacks you have or how many negative plays you have. Those are the only stats you have. But it’s fun. You can find your joy in it. I love it.

So what joy did you find in it? I just love run blocking. I love taking on a man against his will and driving him back. I love it.

What was your most memorable collision in high school? I remember in high school, I had three pancakes on one play. Three pancakes, literally.

How did you do that? It was a pass play and the guy I was going against, I locked him out, threw him to the ground. Somebody else came inside and I threw him to the ground. And then I threw another guy to the ground. I was like, “Wow. I just had three knockdowns in one play. Three pancakes.”

What’s the feeling you get knocking somebody out like that? It’s cool. There’s a lot of preparation put into it. I won’t just go out there. It takes a lot of planning and a lot of mental intensity and focus. When everything comes together, it’s a great feeling.

What did you learn about yourself last year (as a rookie) when you only played three snaps? I just learned lessons about life. You go through things in life and if you push through you survive. If you don’t push through, you don’t survive basically.

How did this make you a better player/person? You need to go through struggles in your life. Actually my dad used to tell me growing up, “The only way you purify gold is by putting it through the fire.” So you’ll come out stronger.

What do you like to do outside of football? I usually just hang out with my fiancée. We watch movies. I like to stay off my feet a lot, so I like to go to movies a lot and hang out with my family.

If you weren’t a football player, what would you be doing? If I wasn’t a football player, I’d probably be, I don’t know, gold mining. Blue-collar, tough-nosed type of stuff. I can’t pancake people, I can’t put my hands on people.

If you could meet one person, dead or alive, who would it be? Jesus. I’ve heard a lot about him and heard he was an awesome guy. I’d like to see him. That’d be sweet, awesome.

On the outside, people really haven’t seen you play a ton. What do you know about yourself that suggests you can be a long-term player in this league? I don’t know. I just work. ... I’ve prepared a lot for this opportunity and did a lot of planning. I’m looking forward to going out there and having a great day.

email: tdunne@buffnews.com