'Warrior mentality' pushed Karambir Singh to great heights on football field

Mar. 25—Karambir "KB" Singh is deeply rooted in his faith and culture.

It shows when he is at home, working on his family's farm. It also shows in school at Arizona College Prep, where he is a high-GPA student hoping to one day have a career in agriculture.

But it really showed on the football field for the Knights. Singh battled through a position change and near debilitating injuries to become the first visible Sikh with unshorn hair and beard to sign with a Division I college football program.

"It was a special moment for sure," Singh said. "There's a stereotype. When you think of an Indian person you think of them being really smart and wanting to be a doctor or engineer. That's what people would ask when they came to our house, 'Hey, are you going to be a doctor?' No. I'm going to be in the NFL.

"It showed that anybody can do it. It doesn't matter what you look like."

The Sikh religion was established during a time of war in India. Sikh was the middle ground that brought forth peace to the nation.

Singh said Sikh is best described as "a religion of warriors that bring forth peace." They have a strong mentality that does not take persecution lightly. They're determined to achieve their goals and look to their God in order to do that.

That's what Singh has done his entire life either through daily prayer or scripture. Many of his wishes in life have been granted in due time. He credits his faith for most of that, as well as his own work ethic.

"Faith is the foundation for who I am," Singh said. "I use it as a guideline to live and do whatever I do in life. It's helped me through a lot of times growing up finding who I am. My maturity, I tie that to my faith. It teaches me to keep levelheaded and stay humble. On a football field you have to play with a little swagger but in life just stay humble."

Singh transferred from Washington to Arizona and initially began his high school football career at Hamilton. He had dabbled in youth football for years prior, mostly playing linebacker, wideout and some defensive line.

Initially, he thought his chances of playing football may have been slim. Two of his aunts are neurologists and warned him and his parents of the dangerous effects hits to the head may have on Singh's brain. However, his parents gave in after Singh created a PowerPoint presentation in fourth grade showcasing why he should be allowed to play football.

The rest is history. Despite a few twists and turns along the way.

Singh spent a year at Hamilton playing defensive end. Some of his best friends on the team transferred out of the program, leaving him feeling alone and out of place. So, he made the move to Arizona College Prep, which had just opened its new campus.

Singh expected to stay on defense, but he quickly found himself at right tackle on the offensive side of the ball. Despite to this day wishing he had played something else, he excelled. He was a two-year starter for the Knights and helped build the program into a 4A contender last season.

All of that was done despite practicing once a week due to a lingering ankle injury.

"Usually by the end of the game he couldn't walk anymore," said ACP Head Coach Steve Vaught, who was the defensive coordinator last season. "It just showed extreme toughness and his love for the game and his team to be able to push through that pain threshold."

Singh suffered an ankle injury in California at the team's summer camp. He was diagnosed with a high-ankle sprain, a relief given the severity of the pain he had and the awkward angle at which his ankle rested after the injury.

He was told he would miss an extended period of time by doctors. Of course, Singh's warrior mentality kicked in. He rehabbed and started the first game of the season. He started the second game, too, before aggravating the injury which forced him to sit out the third.

But he made it through the season and earned a Division I opportunity with Valparaiso in the process.

"They're getting a really hard worker, a really good teammate and an extremely tough individual," Vaught said. "He was basically a coach on the field. He's just an extremely mature young man and he did a great job of promoting the culture of the program."

Singh said Valpo was one of the first Division I program to offer him a scholarship. Upon visiting, he enjoyed the opportunities for outdoor recreation, something he adores here in Arizona.

He also saw an opportunity to prove his worth right away and become a starter. His goal has always been to prove he is the best on the field. Now he has that opportunity at the college level.

Soon, he hopes to prove it in the NFL, too, and become the first-ever Sikh to play professional football while he's at it.

"I'm going to work as hard as I possibly can, as fast as I can," Singh said. "I want to earn my spot. Hopefully, I can turn some heads of NFL scouts as well. I just need to keep pushing and keep working."

Have an interesting story? Contact Zach Alvira at (480)898-5630 or Follow him on Twitter @ZachAlvira.