By Brandy L. Simms @bls1969
ANNAPOLIS — Wale, a high profile rap artist who once attended Quince Orchard High School, has long been an ardent supporter of his alma mater.
On Friday night, Wale, who also played football at Quince Orchard and ran track for the Firebirds, was in the front row at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium cheering on the Cougars.
“He comes back and he gives to the community,” said Adrian “Hot Dog” McDaniel, who coached Wale with the Firebirds. “Anytime something represents Montgomery County, he comes back and supports his school. He comes back and supports the Firebirds, always asking about the team so he’s a big community person who kids look up to.”
Although he declined my request for a formal interview, Wale, who was known as Victor Akintimehin during his high school days on the gridiron, cheered on the Cougars throughout the game.
Quince Orchard head coach John Kelley, who played at Seneca Valley, said Wale texted him prior to the contest.
“He said he was going to be at the game,” Kelley revealed to me. “He told me he wanted to be in the student section.”
Wale, who was a running back in high school, was very vocal during the game and spoke highly of Kelley’s brother, Chris, who was a standout quarterback and linebacker during his days at Seneca Valley.
“He’s told me the same thing,” Kelley said with a laugh when I mentioned it to him.
Wale’s entourage included the family of a Quince Orchard football player whose mother knows him from their high school days. Wale congratulated the player following the win.
Although Wale has reached prominence through his music, he still hasn’t forgotten his athletic roots in Montgomery County.
“I think that just kind of just shows how important it is to him – the impact that football had on his life and what it meant to him,” said Kelley. “For him to support us it’s just outstanding.”
Quince Orchard’s standout junior running back Marquez Cooper finished the game with 256 yards on 39 carries and scored three touchdowns in the Cougars’ 40-33 victory over North Point.
The win marked Quince Orchard’s third state championship in program history and their first since 2007.
Wale and Cooper, who scored on a one-yard run midway through the second quarter, had a brief meeting at halftime.
Cooper shared a tweet with a photo of him and the rap star shaking hands: “You know it’s real when Wale complimenting you,” he tweeted. “It’s a blessing.”
Wale’s response: “U was eatin bro…respect.”
I asked Cooper about his conversation with the former Quince Orchard running back. Wale’s piece of advice to Cooper was “just keep balling,” said the junior who led Montgomery County in both rushing yards and touchdowns this season.
During the 2018 campaign, Cooper surpassed the 2,000-yard plateau and scored 38 touchdowns for the Cougars. Cooper’s exploits certainly did not go unnoticed by one of the nation’s biggest rap stars.
Wale is perhaps the school’s most famous alum and one of the football program’s biggest cheerleaders.
“I think it’s great that he still has all that emotion and all that passion that he had when he was a player and it’s still important to him,” said Kelley. “You can see how important it is to him and how he feels about it by the way he reacts and still supports us.”
Wale has long been a supporter of Washington professional sports teams including the Redskins and Wizards but his love for Quince Orchard football tops the cake. Despite his hectic schedule, Wale made time to show the Cougars some love.
“He’s been to a couple of our games,” said Kelley. “I think it’s just awesome that with all the success he’s had that he still comes back and wants to support his roots which is Quince Orchard football. I think it’s special and that speaks to the tradition of the school and everything he believes in and all the success he’s had. I think it’s awesome.”
You can contact Brandy at: firstname.lastname@example.org.