Miami Gardens football player doesn’t give up on NFL dream despite injury

On the bustling streets of Miami Gardens, where dreams clash with harsh realities, a young footballer has sparked a legend. Kisean Bullard, known as “Happyfeet,” earned his nickname in a single, breathtaking game at the age of 11. His optimist coach, Tyrone Douglas, witnessed a display of sheer speed that left defenders trailing and bestowed the moniker that stuck. Bullard scored four touchdowns and rushed for 220 yards that day, scoring three touchdowns in overtime.

The moment has been etched in local lore, marking the birth of a relentless athlete destined for much more than the rough streets he grew up in.

“He was running so fast that game that I just started calling him ‘Happyfeet,’” Douglas recalls. “And he’s been called that ever since.”

Standing at 5 ‘7 Bullard has blazed a trail in football marked by a disregard for his height. He has speed, and an unyielding drive to succeed. From the rough streets where he was raised by a hard-working mother to stand out performances at the Division III level to his recent torn ACL, he has been resilient, fighting against all odds.

The last person who was under 5’9 to get drafted in the first round of the NFL was Barry Sanders in 1989. Despite this, a pathway for guys under 5’7 does exist. This has been proven by players like Darren Sproles (5’6) and more recently, Deuce Vaughn (5’5) of the Dallas Cowboys, . “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog,” said NFL legend Archie Griffin. who stood at 5 ‘9 himself. And Bullard has got a lot of fight in him.

“He was always the shortest among the boys, but it didn’t matter to him because he was faster than all of them,” his mother Kiesha said.

Bullard was raised in Miami Gardens by his mom, who worked two jobs just to make ends meet.

He describes growing up in Miami Gardens as a “rough environment after school, [but]I was always in the house.” The oldest among six kids, he started playing football at age 6 for the Opa-locka Panthers optimist football program.

He describes his mom as his childhood hero for always supporting him and helping him accomplish his goals.

He had to wait until the spring 2017 to play football for the Spartans at Monsignor Pace High School in Miami Gardens. Until then, he kept his focus on academics. He says he had a 3.6 GPA and made the honor roll that semester.

During Kisean’s first practice with the Spartans, he had to learn the new offense. “I was able to learn a lot from my teammates,” he said.

On May 18, 2017, Bullard made his Spartan debut against Southwest Miami High School in the spring game. He was the starting wing back and during the game, moved to wide receiver. He finished with two carries for 30 yards, and two catches for 64 yards.

That fall, he was named the starting wing back and punt returner. He went on to lead the team in punt and kick return yards, was third in rushing yards, and led in interceptions. He helped lead the Spartans to an 8-2 record, their best since 2010.

After graduating from high school, he accepted a scholarship to play football at Dean College in Franklin, Massachusetts. It was a division 3 school.

“Dean welcomed me with open arms and treated me with kindness when I first arrived on campus,” he says. But it wasn’t always easy. “I knew already coming into college it was gonna be difficult being a student athlete especially at this level,” he said

In his freshman year, he met teammate Quintus Reid, who was also a freshman, and they both shared the backfield.

Quintus said, “Kisean and I instantly connected; it was more than football; we became really close on and off the field.” Kisean played in nine games in his first year. He ran for 164 yards, had nine catches for 124 yards and a touchdown, and averaged 30 yards on four kick returns.

Another teammate, wide receiver Errol Breuax, said “That man Kisean is the fastest on the team. Whenever he gets the ball in his hands, he has the ability to take it to the house, which is something you see guys in the NFL do.”

In his sophomore year, 2019, his stats have improved. He played in nine games, had 18 catches, 201 receiving yards, and two touchdowns. He was featured more in the passing game, which is why his quarterback Terrel Watts threw the ball his way.

Watts said, “Kisean and I built our chemistry through the offseason, and he wanted to build a relationship with me and helped me improve my game so much.”

Kisean helped lead Dean to a conference record of 4-1, which was enough to earn them the first championship in school history under the NCAA. Quintus Reid said, “Kisean may not be the biggest or strongest guy on the team, but he knows how to amp us up before every game and give us a huge impact.”

Due to COVID, the Bulldogs season was canceled, but that didn’t stop him. He continued to work on his craft by adding some muscle and also showing leadership even when their season was canceled. In 2021, coming off quarantine, he played in 10 games, but faced many injuries, including broken fingers, knees, and ankle injuries, But he fought through them.

Watts said, “That man is a warrior.” The team finished the season with a record of 2-8. , but Kisean lifted all his teammates up after a tough season. “We didn’t have the best season, especially after coming off a conference championship the season before, but I still wanted my teammates to look at the positives,” Kisean said.

In Kisean’s senior year of college, he tore his ACL five games into the season. “I remember sitting on the sidelines and the trainer came up to me and said I tore my ACL. I was hurt and sad because my senior season was over. Quintus Reid said “It hurt all of us on the team to see Kisean go down because he’s more of a vocal leader for us.

Kisean graduated from Dean College with a degree in communications, even though it wasn’t the results he wanted to end his senior year, but there were still some positives for him. He finished his career at Deans with 512 rushing yards, 7 touchdowns, 509 receiving yards, four touchdowns, and 1086 kick return yards and two touchdowns.

NFL scouts from the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, and Carolina Panthers saw film of Kisean after graduation, but so far, there’s been no offer.

Kisean is still recovering from his ACL injury, and Dean College training staff still checks in on him now and then. He is also battling the NCAA for one more year of eligibility since his senior season was cut short due to injury, but he’s still fighting with the NCAA for his eligibility.

No matter what happens, he’s thinking positive and hoping for “a major comeback” that leads to the NFL.

Sebastian Cuervo is a senior majoring in digital journalism with a focus in sports journalism. After his studies, he wishes to pursue a career as an on-air sports analyst.

Darin Virgile is a junior majoring in Digital Journalism/Broadcasting. After he’s done with his studies he wants to purse a career in sports radio or columnist.