MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — He is one of the best running backs Totino-Grace High School has seen.

Kez Flomo made the All-Metro Football team and was a finalist for the Mr. Football award.

READ MORE: Owner Reunited With Dog After Her Car Was Stolen In Downtown Minneapolis

The senior is described as hungry and ferocious on the field. But it’s what drives the senior to play that way that has caught the attention of his teammates and coach.

The 18-year-old spoke to WCCO about his journey to find himself, despite a tough start.

“I love getting that ball, I love playing,” Kez said.

He shows up every day. He smiles just thinking about it.

“I just have that hunger for the game,” he said.

The Totino-Grace Eagles’ running back is accustomed to pushing past players and making plays. The team captain has run for more than 1,800 yards and 23 touchdowns this season. But it’s hard for him to push past his beginning.

“When I was like 6 … stuff got a little rough,” he said.

The 18-year-old was born in Liberia. Even as a little boy, he remembers the country’s civil war.

“It was really rough in Liberia, and there was like dead bodies everywhere and people doing bad things,” Kez said.

He fled the country with his dad, younger brother and grandparents. They spent time in a refugee camp before moving to the United States.

“My family was separated, my mom’s currently in Liberia right now,” he said.

The 11-year separation weighs on his mind daily. The two talk on the phone once a month, but it’s not enough for a teenager who wishes his mom was here.

“I want her over here. I want her to, like, experience life, like experience what I’m going through, and how America can be sweet and sometimes bitter,” he said.

READ MORE: Dozens Of Homes Flooded After Water Main Breaks In St. Louis Park

Since Kez and his younger brother, Gayflor, moved to Minnesota, they’ve become estranged from their dad. Their grandfather died a few years ago.

They now split time living with their grandma and other extended family. The two rely on each other.

“At home he’ll, like, tell me to do my homework because I procrastinate a lot,” Gayflor said. “It feels great knowing that I have at least somebody there like for me.”

Coach Jeff Ferguson says Kez has impressed him on and off the field.

“He’s such a physical runner, he’s just … passionate, he runs with great zeal and great energy,” Ferguson said. “He’s had to work for what he has and he knows that there are no guarantees in his future.”

It’s there, on the field, where Kez is able to leave his troubles behind, and play his heart out.

“Being on the football field … I kind of, like, express myself, when I hit people. I kind of let out that frustration or that anger I feel inside of me,” Kez said.

But no matter what life brings, the senior remembers to always carry a smile. It’s for his mom.

“Everything I do, I do it to make my mom proud,” he said.

And it’s for the people around him who have become family.

“When I smile, I try to, like, be the light in someone’s world and make them smile. So my purpose in life is to make someone smile, and that’s what I’ve been striving to do,” he said.

Kez is currently being recruited by a number of D-2 schools, including South Dakota and Northern Iowa.

But he says he knows his education is equally important, so he’s focused on that, too.

MORE NEWS: Next Weather: Frost Advisory Issued For Western, Northern Minnesota

Kez hopes to be reunited with his mother someday. Until then, they’ll continue their monthly phone calls.

Jennifer Mayerle