It’s game day at Sun Life Stadium and all heads turn toward the giant helmet on the home side of the field. The fog rises through the crowd and the team pummels through the end zone. The crowd goes crazy, especially the student section. This is the traditional opening of every home football game at the University of Miami. This year, it’s the result of the work of junior Nick Kaleel.
Kaleel is the chair of Category 5, the University of Miami Spirit Programming Board whose biggest aim is to cultivate school spirit in every student on campus.
One recent afternoon, Kaleel planted himself at one of the tables overlooking Lake Osceola and nodded to multiple passers-by. It seemed as if he knew most of the students on campus.
“I am kind of like a madman,” Kaleel said as he laughed. “I had a meeting before this, and I have meeting right after, and then I have to leave for FSU at 5.”
Kaleel, a biomedical engineering major, runs all operations for Category 5, from the smoke and music at football games to the T-shirt handouts and raffles at basketball games. Every Monday, the Category 5 board meets under Kaleel’s supervision to discuss upcoming athletic events and what they can offer to students to enhance the game experience. One of Kaleel’s fellow board members, Vice Chair Candice Johnson, said Kaleel is great at his position because he understands that it is business but that they also need to have fun.
“He is truly invested in his board and general members,” Johnson said. “He wants to spark innovation and grow the organization in ways that it has never grown before.”
Kaleel said that one task he particularly enjoys is recruiting alumni to attend games or pep rallies. It was through his job that he was able to develop a relationship with NFL football player and Hurricane alumnus D.J. Williams.
“We had contacted him to speak at one of the rallies and now I can go up to him at games and say, ‘What’s up,’” Kaleel said. “One time at a game, I felt someone tap my shoulder and I turn around and it was D.J. Stuff like that is pretty cool.”
Kaleel was first introduced to Category 5 as a freshman, when he was trying to look for ways to get involved on campus. He came to UM with an already deep passion to “bleed orange and green.” Kaleel’s father attended UM as a law student in the late 1980s and Kaleel remembers watching almost every football game growing up.
As a student-athlete, Kaleel’s position couldn’t be more fitting. When Kaleel is not running watch parties or pep rallies, he’s running early morning miles with the cross-country and track and field teams. Kaleel has been a long distance runner since his freshman year. His mornings begin long before many students have made it out of bed, with 6 a.m. practices that consist of eight to 10 miles each morning.
Once finished with the cross-country and track season, Kaleel takes up the position as track coach for the triathlon club known as TriCanes. The TriCanes compete locally and nationally against other colleges, particularly schools in the Florida Collegiate Triathlon Conference (FCTC). Among the runners he helps train is his roommate Joey Newfeld, president of the TriCanes club.
“We train for endurance sports together,” Newfeld said. “We used to meet outside the dorms at 6 a.m. to train, but now that we live together, we get an extra five minutes to sleep in.”
When Kaleel has time to himself, which does happen despite his hectic schedule, he likes to remind himself of his home on the beach in Ocean Ridge, Florida, by going to Key Biscayne.
“I will just go there for hours to hang out, just to clear my mind,” Kaleel said.
No matter how busy his schedule may be, Kaleel said that it’s all worth it. Not all learning in college, he said, comes from within the classroom.
“At the end of the day, I love doing it,” Kaleel said. “I spend a lot of time and energy on all this. Playing a sport, plus running an organization, plus maintaining academics, it’s all an educational experience. That is how I look at it and that is what keeps me going.”