More Than A Game: Kwamie Lassiter II
The last name “Lassiter” has been spelt out on the back of Kansas football uniforms long before current Jayhawk, Kwamie Lassiter II, ever took the field at KU. In fact, years before he was born, his father Kwamie Lassiter, was making plays in the KU secondary.
The elder Lassiter was a member of the 1992 Aloha Bowl Championship team and was also named All-Big 12 Second Team as a Jayhawk in 1994. He would then go on to a successful 10-year career in the National Football League (NFL) with the Arizona Cardinals, San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams, playing in 129 career NFL games, recording 25 interceptions and over 600 tackles in his career.
Born in 1998 – four years into his father’s professional career, it’s no wonder how Lassiter II grew up around the game of football.
“Growing up seeing him play, it was something that I didn’t know that I was in until I got older,” Lassiter II said. “I would see kids playing football growing up, but I didn’t know that I was really going to NFL football games. It was different.”
Being around the game, Lassiter II followed in his father’s footsteps and began playing football at a young age. Like his dad, he started his football career at safety and found influence from his mother, Ericka Lassiter.
“Some of my early influences were my dad, of course, but my mom too. She kept me going and kept me level-headed. Hearing it from them, really kept me going.”Kwamie Lassiter II
In high school, Lassiter II earned second-team all-punt return as a senior in 2015, but also stood out in track & field, qualifying for the Arizona State Championships in both the long and triple jump in 2016. Not highly recruited out of high school, Lassiter II followed the path of his father and enrolled at KU in 2016 as a walk-on, but did so as a wide receiver.
“Being a walk-on here, it was something that I had to overcome. I wanted to be the best at everything I did,” Lassiter II said. “I had a chip on my shoulder because I knew I didn’t want to make any mistakes, and being a walk-on led me to where I am now.”
Lassiter II redshirted his first season in Lawrence, but saw his first playing time as a redshirt freshman in 2017.
In 2018, Lassiter II took another step forward by playing in 11 games, gaining valuable reps on special teams, while catching 12 passes for 87 yards and one touchdown. His first-career touchdown came against Oklahoma State on Sept. 28, 2018, with his family in attendance.
“Catching my first touchdown was special,” Lassiter II recalled. “I knew it was going to happen because my mom speaks things into existence. When they came to the game, she said, ‘You’re going to make a play today.’ And when I scored my first touchdown, I went over to them immediately.”
Lassiter II recalled hearing his family in the crowd during the 2018 season as one of his favorite memories at KU. He recalls his father’s distinguishable whistle from the stands, despite all of the other noise in the stadium. Every time he heard his father’s whistle he’s reminded of a familiar mantra, “be the best,” or “btb.”
Just months after Lassiter II finished his sophomore season, the Lassiters were dealt devastating news. Kwamie Lassiter Sr., passed away due to a heart attack. He was 49 years old.
“I found out through my mom, actually. I was about to go to the gym with him,” Lassiter II said. “He went 20 minutes before us and my mom came running up the stairs telling us he had a heart attack so we rushed to the hospital. (It was) One of the worst days of my life. The worst day of my life.”
I keep faith a lot. I read the Bible a lot, so I am into faith. I keep my family and my loved ones close. To be honest, that’s really all I need.”
The Lassiter family relied on faith and each other to get them through the loss of their husband and father. Upon returning to Lawrence, Lassiter II relied on football to keep him focused.
“Once I am in between those lines, I don’t think about anything else. I just focus on what I have to do,” Lassiter II said. “That’s something my dad preached on a lot. When I am playing football, all (of) my worries and everything else goes out the window.”
Wearing the same number that his father wore as a Jayhawk, No. 8, Lassiter II aspired to represent his father on the same field he once competed on, while playing for his family back home in Arizona.
During his junior year in 2019, Lassiter II had a breakout season, setting career marks in receptions and receiving yards, catching 34 passes for 352 yards and one touchdown. Now three games into his senior campaign, Lassiter II is the leading receiver for the Jayhawks with 15 catches for 171 yards and one touchdown.
While out on the field, he plays for his family and keeps his faith.
“My family has always had a big impact on my life. Because without them, I truly wouldn’t be where I am today,” Lassiter II said. “I really play for my family. I have a little brother who has sickle cell anemia and couldn’t really play sports growing up, so I play for him too. Every time I step on the field I think of him.”