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Nick Osbourne ’23 sits across from me in casual sneakers, worn blue jeans, a blue hoodie, and a ’90s throwback Lakers graphic t-shirt. It’s a free day and Osbourne is relaxed as can be, yet his tone is resolute when he answers a call from his roommate.
“Ibrahim,” Osbourne says, the words punctuated by his trademark sly smile. “You are late.”
The parental-like use of his first name is enough to hustle Ibrahim Kazi ’23 to my office. He arrives in the doorway with a glistening brow above his glasses. He acts surprised, as though we didn’t run into each other mere hours earlier confirming the time and place of this interview. “Make sure you get on top of Nick because if you don’t, he is going to be late or miss it,” Kazi advised at the time.
Now Kazi grabs a chair, parks himself in it, brushes the long hair out of his face and lightly taps Osbourne’s knee with the back of his hand, a gesture that encapsulates a deep friendship in one second. The two have an easy way about them when they aren’t attempting to provoke one another for amusement.
“They are goofballs,” says Head Football Coach Pat Moffitt, who has doubled as advisor to both boys for the last four years. “I was surprised when they said they were going to room together senior year. They are similar in their sports interests, but also two very different people.”
The differences are apparent. Osbourne is a Residential Leader majoring in film who wants to pursue communications with a focus on digital media. Kazi is a science major who wants to take the pre-med route in college. Osbourne listens to Rod Wave. Kazi likes The Weekend. Osbourne loved rooming together freshman year. Kazi very much did not (if you ask Osbourne, he’ll tell you a different story). Osbourne turns the lights on at 10:30 when Kazi is already in bed. Kazi snores.
Yet the differences are an afterthought to their similarities. They are both New York Giants fans, a product of their parents immigrating to New York City years ago–Osbourne’s from Jamaica and Kazi’s from Pakistan. They both love Rick and Morty. Above all, they love playing sports, and their friendship is inextricably tied to their shared athletic experiences. For almost four years, Osbourne and Kazi competed together in football, wrestling and lacrosse, spending countless hours practicing, lifting weights, competing and mentoring younger athletes. They worked through adversity in many shapes and sizes–bad ankles, quad sprains, washed-away pandemic seasons–which only strengthened their desire to compete at a high level.
“They are two of our bigger competitors on campus and two of the bigger competitors I've had in my eight years here,” says Moffitt. “When things aren't going his way, Nick’s fierce competitor comes out of him visibly and vocally. Kazi is definitely more quiet with it, but you can tell by his body language when he's off."
It started during freshman year football. Osbourne arrived after preseason and was a back-up wide receiver and cornerback playing on the scout team. He saw an opportunity to fill-in as the scout team running back, and his hard-working and tenacious attitude soon paid off.
“He was the scout team running back the week we were playing Tower Hill,” recalls Moffitt. “He was just crushing our starting defense and it was like, we need to find a way to get him on the field. It cemented the fact that he was going to be our running back going forward once the other guy graduated. We actually tell that story to our scout team guys every year.”
Kazi, on the other hand, made an immediate impact as a starter on the offensive line. Moffitt also tells a story about Kazi from freshman year, but it’s starkly different:
“One game, Kazi was complaining he couldn’t breathe all game,” says Moffitt with a chuckle. “Turned out his shoulder pads were backwards. The pads were driving into his windpipe.”
Gradually, Osbourne’s determination rubbed off on Kazi, especially when challenged. After the pandemic wiped out three straight sports seasons, Kazi confronted immensely talented attackmen in his first high school lacrosse experience. It was a steep learning curve that pushed him to train hard in his own time. A year later as a junior, after an All-Conference football performance and championing the DISC heavyweight division, Kazi was a part of a defensive unit that locked down legit rivals down the stretch to qualify for the state tournament.
Alternatively, Osbourne adopted Kazi’s people skills as he developed as a leader. As an athlete, he raked up two All-Conference football selections as he routinely led the offensive and defensive charge for the Saints. In wrestling, he qualified for the state tournament as a freshman but was forced to drop-out after falling ill. The pandemic canceled his sophomore year, but he bounced back his junior season by qualifying for states again at 152 lbs, one of the toughest weight classes in the state. He placed 11th overall. Yet these days, Osbourne shares his knowledge and talent by coaching new wrestlers. His passion is evident in the praise he sings for his teammates.
“People are seeing us lose matches, but they aren’t seeing how our wrestlers are fighting,” Osbourne says. “Juliet Klecan, Riley Reid, Will Porter: they are all new to the sport and facing really tough opponents. They are working their butts off and are now holding their own in every match. I wish people saw more of that.”
That attitude was cultivated during football season. Both Osbourne and Kazi served as captains for a very young team with few experienced upperclassmen. Moffitt mentions they “took on a bigger role as an extension of the coaching staff”, but it goes further than that. As Osbourne describes it, they were trying to instill a lasting culture.
“We emphasized picking each other back up, sometimes even physically as well as mentally,” Osbourne explains. “We had to make sure that when our team got down, we were able to pick them back up. That was a big part about being captains.”
Creating a lasting culture requires a balance between hard work and enjoyment, the latter of which comes easily for Osbourne and Kazi. Their fondest memories are wrestling team dinners, like the one at Buffalo Wild Wings after winning the DISC Tournament, or the one at the fancy Italian restaurant when they walked in unshowered and sweaty. They also have fun with each other. The moment they arise, one of them says, in a high-pitched, squeaky tone, “Oh, what’s happening, dog.” They jam out to “How To Love” by Lil Wayne. They talk smack while playing Madden at Moffitt’s advisory hangouts. They pull practical jokes, like when Kazi convinced the manager at the Green Turtle it was Osbourne’s birthday. They brought over a cake and sang happy birthday to him.
“I think that they know what they want to accomplish,” says Moffit. “They have goals and ideas about where they want to go. At the same time, they don't take themselves too seriously. They have fun with it.”
The reminiscing is a symptom of their athletic careers coming to a close. They are both eyeing the podium for the Independent Conference Championships and the DIAA State Tournament. Kazi has one final lacrosse season on the horizon. Their daily mentorship and support is a constant reminder of their efforts to give back to something that’s enriched their lives. It’s a pillar of the St. Andrew’s experience. For someone like Kazi, it’s made all the difference in the world.
“Honestly,” says Kazi, “[sports] helped me become more disciplined, manage my time better, and make better choices. In wrestling, having another person kick your butt, it's awful. There's no worse feeling. But the hard work of getting back up, waking up the next day, doing the same thing over again … it teaches you a lot.”
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