By Chris Doherty
Special to the Bulletin
Locker rooms are a spot of so many different people, upbringings and cultures. Everyone in there has a different story.
Some stories are simple, and some have a deep family history.
Bassett junior Ardonit Mehmeti was been born and raised in Virginia, but that can’t be said about most of his family. Mehmeti’s parents and two older sisters were born in Kosovo, a small European country in the Balkins, south of Serbia and north of Greece. There was a civil war in Kosovo from February 1998 until June 1999. That’s when Mehmeti’s parents and sisters moved to the United States.
Even growing up in the U.S., Mehmeti is no stranger to his family culture, and even speaks Albanian fluently. This summer, Mehmeti missed some of Bassett’s workouts, but it was because he and his family were all back together again in Kosovo, something the family tries to do at least once every couple of years.
“We go about every two or three years, stay for about two months and stay with family,” Mehmeti said. “During the war, my mom’s brothers and sisters came here and my mom has one sister that still lives in Kosovo. The rest of his family is in Germany and Switzerland because a lot of his family lives in Germany, Switzerland, France and Sweden.”
And even with the separation, the family attempts to get together in Kosovo as much as possible.
“I enjoy it a lot,” he said. “There’s family that hasn’t been able to see them in seven years.”
From a young age, Mehmeti learned of his family culture, and those trips are part of still being a part of that culture.
“We’re very big on culture. My parents never leave that culture,” Mehmeti said. “I really love our culture. I really love our traditions… Being with family and experiencing it as well, because we’ve been to a few weddings over the summer and they’re very big on weddings down there.”
Part of the culture in Mehmeti’s family is watching soccer. But Mehmeti has always been drawn to the sport of football.
“For them, they don’t know anything about football,” Mehmeti said. “I’ve always been a physical guy ... I love to lift weights and I love to get physical and that’s why I found a love for football.”
And as important as it is to spend that time in Kosovo with his family, Mehmeti made sure that he got his workouts in. He lifted the weights, he did his speed training, and he even had a feeling of being in Bassett when he finished his workouts. There’s the big hill on the football field at Bassett, and Mehmeti found one twice that size where he was in Europe. Running that hill was how he closed out his workouts.
“I worked out just as much out there. I lifted about five or six days a week ... and then I did speed about four-five days a week,” Mehmeti said.
Then Mehmeti returned to Bassett and returned to the football field with his teammates and it was like he never left.
“Flip the switch and just get back in it,” he said. “I felt like I was very conditioned. I got a lot stronger.”
Mehmeti got a lot of time at linebacker last season for the Bengals, and intends to get more time there this season, but as the season moved along last year Mehmeti started working out at running back, and hopes to play a role in the backfield this season.
“I’ve been watching a lot of film,” Mehmeti said. “A lot of mental work.”
And as a player who has put in a lot work and earned himself a spot on the field, Mehmeti tries to be a vocal leader for the group. Coming from a family that dealt with leaving a country battling a civil war, Mehmeti uses those lessons in every aspect of his life.
“Be very grateful and thankful for what you have, because during the war ... there was a lot of genocide,” he said. “One of my sisters was born during the war as well, and then my other sister was born a few years before that.
“I try to be very vocal … I’m all about believing in all you got and all about pushing to the limits. That’s just how I was raised and taught.”
It’s now football season, and Mehmeti is fully focused on succeeding on the football field, as well as in the classroom, but his family and culture will always be with him, and no matter what he does, getting back to Kosovo will always be a priority for Mehmeti the rest of his life.
“I definitely want to stay in touch with family in Europe,” he said. “It’s very important. It’s something that’s very deep in my heart, so I have to keep that with me.”