Since he entered the league in 2017, Atlanta Falcons safety Damontae Kazee has been saving his game checks with the intention to buy his parents a new house someday.
Kazee, 27, might be able to do that sooner rather than later as he's entering the final year of his rookie contract. He says he's "not worried" about his next contract though. Right now, he's focused on the upcoming season hoping everything will take care of itself.
"Honestly, I just want to get out there and play," Kazee said. "It's going to work out either way. I'm getting a house for my parents so it doesn't even matter."
The Falcons drafted Kazee in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft and immediately changed his position. Kazee played cornerback at San Diego State and recorded 240 tackles, 17 interceptions and 29 pass breakups in his four-year career. Falcons coach Dan Quinn envisioned Kazee as a free safety in his defense with his vision and ability to make plays on the ball.
In 2018, his second season with the Falcons, Kazee finished in a three-way tie with Kyle Fuller and Xavien Howard for the most interceptions in the NFL with seven. He established himself not only as a starter in Atlanta's defense, but also one of the best players in the league in creating turnovers. Kazee has recorded 13 pass breakups and 10 interceptions in the last two seasons.
Although he's most valuable in the middle of the field, he can also play in the slot. The Falcons featured Kazee at nickel cornerback for three games before moving him back to safety when Keanu Neal was placed on injured reserve in late September.
Kazee's fiery and competitive personality has won over his head coach and teammates. He doesn't rely on outside factors to motivate him and that's part of the reason why he's climbed the Falcons' depth chart as quickly as he has.
"From a motivation standpoint he's a hell of a competitor," Quinn said. "Whether it's a contract year or not, his standard of going for it has always been on point. His speed coming [from] the middle of the field [is what] sets him apart. That's where some of his ball skills and range really takes over. He really sees the ball well."
If Kazee puts together another season that resembles his last two, he'll likely be rewarded with a sizeable second contract. This would make it easier for him to fulfill his goal of being able to buy his parents a house in his hometown of San Bernardino, Calif.
As the third-oldest of four boys, Kazee saw what his parents sacrificed so they could enjoy the best childhood possible. That included little league football payments, tickets and outfits for prom for three kids in one year, graduation gowns and tickets, just to name a few examples. Kazee wants to make sure his parents know how much he appreciates what they did for him and his brothers.
"I'm a big family guy," Kazee said. "It's time for them to sit down and just relax, they've been working their butts off since I was younger paying for me and my brothers. It's time for them to sit down and enjoy it."
For Kazee to remain being successful in Atlanta's defense, keeping things as simple as possible will be necessary. With a knack for making plays and a competitive fire within, Kazee doesn't need to complicate what he already does well. In fact, it's the opposite of what he wants to do.
"Football is therapy for me," Kazee said. "When I get out there, I'm just having fun."
The best from the tight ends and more on Day 19 of AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp.