Imani Bey, a graduating senior at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, hopes to someday play in the National Football League, and perhaps eventually work in chemical engineering or play the clarinet professionally.

Bey will be attending Virginia Military Institute on a football scholarship, and plans to study chemical engineering and computer science. For him, these interests are related, because his love for football helps him in his study of math.

During his sophomore year geometry class, Bey was having trouble with the angles he was studying. Then, while he was doing a conditioning drill where he had to run toward a cone and continually look back to find the ball, he realized that the angles involved in properly playing football are the same as the angles he was learning about in math class.

“I relate my schoolwork to football terms,” he said. “It helps me get motivation to study.” Now, math is his favorite subject.

Bey has been playing football for 12 years and has been on all-conference and all-state teams during his time in high school. He now plays as an outside linebacker, but began as an offensive player at McNamara. His coaches put him in several different positions early in his high school football career, before eventually finding what he did best and most enjoyed – tackling. 

“It really just gives me a place to escape,” he said. “…I used to have a bad temper, but now I channel that to love and passion for football.”

He also has a passion for music, and is the first chair for the bass clarinet in the top band at McNamara. He was selected for the all-state band with musicians from across Maryland, and in the Archdiocesan Music Teachers Council Honor Band, which features the top musicians in the Archdiocese of Washington.

“For me to be able to create music is something special,” he said, later adding that he hopes to continue playing music on the side in college and beyond.

His journey to decide to go to VMI was not easy, and he said he never imagined himself going to a military school. His junior year, Bey tore his meniscus and then played on it for the rest of the season, resulting in the need for surgery at the end of the season. While college coaches had started recruiting him and giving him offers, he did not want to meet with them while he was recovering in a leg cast and crutches. During this time, coaches began to lose interest and retract their offers.

Bey describes this as a “humbling experience,” because before his injury, “I thought I was the man,” he said. Afterward, everything got harder.

“The weight was coming down on my shoulders and I had to grind through it,” he said. “If I didn’t have a hunger or desire for what I’m doing, I probably wouldn’t be where I am now.”

Through that experience, Bey also learned, “You can be comfortable, but not complacent. Even if you are number one, always work.”

But Bey knew that he couldn’t do it all on his own, and would frequently come to his school’s chapel to pray and ask God to guide him.

“Prayer definitely got me through this,” he said.

When he was able to play again his senior year, the coach from VMI went to see him play in a game that he did very well in, and extended an offer. Now, as he heads to VMI in the fall, he said he is “looking forward to seeing what the next chapter of my life has in store for me.”