Namane Modise: Life at Five to Life being Number Thirteen

Nov. 17, 2017

By: Katy Nogaki
Athletics Communications Fellow

Do you remember what life was like when you were five years old? I don’t exactly recall in detail what that year of life was like for me, but I can safely say that many of us find ourselves, from time to time, reminiscing on our younger years because life just seemed so carefree back then.

For Namane Modise, or as some people may know him now as the #13 running back on the UC Davis football team, reminiscing on those younger years sometimes brings about a less than positive memory.

That’s because when Namane was just five years old, his father had passed away.

At just five years of age, Namane lost something very special and important to him in his life, his father. However, in that same year, he was introduced to something else that would eventually become very special and important to him in his life, and that was the sport of football.

From that year on, football has always played a major role in Namane’s life. The first team he ever played for was called the Easy Bay Warriors, located in Oakland, Calif., and then he went on to play for Castro Valley High School. After graduating from high school, he decided to carry his football career into the collegiate world, starting first at San Francisco City College before making the final decision to transfer over to UC Davis.

“One of the main reasons why I chose to go to UC Davis was for the education. If the the opportunity to go to the NFL presents itself, then I wouldn’t think twice to take that offer. But growing up, I was taught the importance of having a degree to fall back on because football is just unpredictable, and there’s a chance I could get a serious injury during a game. Also, this school is one of the top universities in the nation, so I knew I couldn’t pass this up.”

UC Davis not only made sense academically for the San Lorenzo native, but being a part of the UC Davis football team has also confirmed with him that he made the right decision to become an Aggie.

“Football wise, I like that Coach Hawkins is a family-oriented guy, and that he looks at us beyond the athlete in us. He always allows us to voice our opinions and make our own decisions, but at the same time, he tells us that we have to also deal with the outcomes of those decisions. As for the team as a whole, it’s a brotherhood, and I know that 10 years from now, I’ll still be in touch with many of them. It’s just a genuine love.”

Juggling between UC Davis academics and athletics can be a tedious task, though. I think we all have somewhat of a general idea of what a typical day may look like for a collegiate student-athlete. For the #13 running back, he hits the ground running on his first school day of the week.

His Monday morning starts at 6 a.m. as he gets ready to start his day with football meetings that go from 8-9 a.m., followed by practice right after from 9-11 a.m. Then one hour later, he will practice in the weight room from 12-1 p.m., before spending the rest of the afternoon attending his classes.

Namane, at first, was taken aback by the transition from the semester system to the quarter system, but between becoming an expert in the art of time-management, as well as what his mother told him when he was younger, he’s learned to enjoy everything that comes with the student-athlete life.

“One morning when I was in sixth grade, I remember being so tired to where I just didn’t want to go to school. When I told my mom that, she responded by saying, ‘If I have to wake up every day, and I’m tired, you can do the same.’ When she said that, knowing that my mom gets up every day for work to provide for me and for my siblings, I made it a mental effort of mine to always tell myself that there’s no excuse as to why I couldn’t do the same.”

Aside from Namane’s mother, another person that he feels has made a significant impact on his life today is his father.

“During those five years of my life, my father instilled in me the importance of discipline. He was strict, but was also a fun person to be around. When I wanted to go hangout with my friends the night before a game, he would advise me to stay home to rest instead. I appreciated that about him, especially when I look back on the things I’ve accomplished, such as getting the Offensive Player of the Year award in 2016. It helped me realize, both in and outside of football, that with determination and hard-work, I know I have the capability to accomplish so much more.”

Namane went on to say more about his father, and it was what he said next about him that really displayed to me how greatly his father, among the five years they shared together, had truly influenced Namane to become the humble individual he is today.

“I liked that no matter how strict my father was, he would never mix business with family, and he was the provider for our family. That’s something I hope to be: a provider for my family, and that someone that my family, or anyone, can depend on. When I have kids one day, I want to be the father that my dad would have been if he were still around.” He laughed to himself before jokingly adding, “Except I’ll be a cooler dad.”

Namane is the first in his family to attend a UC school, and has already made a name for himself during his first year as an Aggie. Just by speaking to him, and seeing in him a maturity beyond his years, I believe he will continue to aim high in life, making everyone around him, and especially his father, proud.

Providing a small-town community feel while providing a world-class academic experience, UC Davis is home to more than 37,000 students and centrally located between San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and the Napa Valley.

Ranked among the top 10 public universities in the nation according to the Wall Street Journal and U.S. News and World Report, UC Davis offers nearly 100 graduate programs and more than 100 undergraduate majors across four colleges and six professional schools, including the world's top-ranked veterinary science and agriculture programs.

Tickets for all UC Davis sports are available by contacting the Athletics Ticket Office at (530) 752-AGS1, or by visiting us online at

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