Rookie has a wild history

It takes a lot to give Calgary Stampeders rookie d-lineman Michael Josiah the thrill of the chase...

It takes a lot to give Calgary Stampeders rookie d-lineman Michael Josiah the thrill of the chase these days. The promising prospect has led a life full of adventure. (Calgary Sun/Stuart Dryden)

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:12 AM ET

Hunting down opposing quarterbacks doesn't give Michael Josiah the thrills as much as it used to.

How could anything possibly compare to the hunting the Calgary Stampeders defensive lineman has done on safari in his homeland?

Josiah's family is originally from Kenya and, during his high school years when he was living in Alabama, the 26-year-old spent two and half weeks living with native tribesmen in Africa.

The only food available was what he and the natives killed. Lions would lurk in the shadows as Josiah nervously slept in the tribe's makeshift huts made of cow dung.

"Me being a country boy at heart, it was more of a privilege to be out there," the CFL rookie said yesterday at Stampeders training camp.

In his lifetime, Josiah has lost count of the countries in which he's resided but he estimates the number between 20 and 25. His mother was an international development officer for the United Nations before retiring five years ago.

Michael and his two siblings were packed up and moved all over the world but the family ended up spending six years in Kenya during the football player's life.

It wasn't until Josiah was a fully-grown adult relocated to Hoover, Ala., that his family let him live with the natives one summer.

Settling about a two-hour drive from the closest city, the 6-ft. 4-in. lineman donned the garb of the messiah, an ancient African tribe.

By day, the males would spread cow dung on themselves to cloak their scent from the animals for the hunt. So for hours, Josiah and others would sit in silence under a fake bush, waiting for supper to appear.

The newcomer did his part, once leaping out to kill a wild boar with a spear crafted from a tree branch. The only weapons they had were a bow and arrow and spear and Josiah succeeded in the hunt on the Kenyan grassland, one of the most beautiful areas he's ever toured.

"One minute you're in a city with tall buildings, then an hour later you're in the beautiful country with dirt roads, animals for as far as you can see," he said. "You wouldn't be able to tell it was industrious at all."

To emulate the natives, Josiah didn't bathe the entire trip, making him smell terrible by the time he returned home. The only salvation was after a while, he lost any sense of his own odour.

When the sun went down, lions would roam outside the camp about 20 feet from where he was bunked. But he couldn't see what he could hear, which was probably a good thing because one night a wild beast let out a primal scream.

"The force of the roar made my heart tremble," Josiah said.

One afternoon, a cow got loose from the tribesmen's compound, only to become a feast for a hungry pride. Although there was danger present at all times, Josiah felt safe with the natives.

"I wouldn't advise you to step out on your own," he said. "But that was the most beautiful part of my experience, being out on the Savannah grasslands, hearing the lions roam at night.

"When they attacked the cow in the middle of a field -- to see that, it's the biggest adrenalin rush you can ever experience in your life.

"It was scary and you knew the level of danger but I was used to it. I've had adventure my whole life."

Now he hopes to pass his experiences along to his four children, who are still living in Kentucky with their mother. Josiah plans on taking the family to Kenya this year, probably after the season is done, and will try to get out on a safari, if only for a short time.

"Hopefully, I can go there after we win the Grey Cup," he said. "I will visit some of my family there. I hope to take my kids with me, show them where their dad is from and where their grandparents grew up.

"That's been something I've wanted to do for a long time."

Of all the places in the world he's lived, this is Josiah's first time in Canada. He's adapted quickly and made friends with teammates after little more than a week together.

Having moved so often, blending into a new environment is second nature to him. Travelling man is a title he enjoys.

"I have to thank my parents for that. I've been able to travel so much," Josiah said.

"I've been able to see the best of all worlds."


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