There’s an old Talmudic story, explaining the roots of Moses’s self-proclaimed lack of eloquence. The story goes that when the future leader of the Exodus was a child, he burned his tongue on hot coals. When he returned to Egypt to argue for the liberation of the Hebrew people, his resultant stutter necessitated his brother, Aaron, speaking for him. California defensive back commit Antoine Albert’s stutter wasn’t the result of Divine intervention, but he does have his own Aaron: His younger “brother” Yamvo Teague.
Teague – who counts Albert as a mentor – is three years younger than Albert, and he steps in when Albert’s impediment gets the best of him.
“Basically, his dad was never around, so it was him and his mom and his brother, they stayed in a small house in Oakland, and they always prayed to God that stuff like this would happen. It’s finally happening,” says Teague of the Albert clan -- mother, Sandra Albert, and older brother, 23-year old Oliver Albert. “He didn’t have anything growing up.”
Albert, his mother and older brother all have the impediment, but, Albert’s older sister -- Christina Albert, seven years Antoine’s senior – speaks “as high class as you get.”
Before his parents split, the family lived in a four-bedroom house. Then, Albert’s father left when he was in sixth grade.
“He took our huge house, and we had to downgrade to a smaller house,” says Albert, with a little help from Teague, who chimes in: “A two-bedroom house.”
Still, when Teague needed a mentor, it was Albert who stepped up for him.
“Yamvo, he was always around,” says Albert. “He was already like my brother. We brought him in.”
"I stay with my father and mother, but we consider me a part of the [Albert] family," says Teague. "That's my mentor. He took me in as I greyshirted, showing me everything he knows as a DB, everything football related."
Albert – the No. 66-ranked junior college prospect in the 2015 class -- has stuttered since he was “small, small, small,” and his condition is genetic -- his mother also has a speech impediment, he says – but it’s never gotten him down.
“It makes me even more hungry, at the end of the day,” he says.
What Albert may lack in ease of speech, he makes up for in personality, and in his support system.
“I always have that support. I will always have helpers, all over the place,” says Albert. “I don’t have a problem with anything, with the whole speech thing. It’s not a huge deal. I could care less what people say.”
His tongue may tie him in knots, sometimes, but it doesn’t hold Albert back from being the life of the party, as his outgoing personality outshines any oral obstacles.
That’s why he and Bears running backs Tre Watson and Vic Enwere became such fast friends leading into his official visit on Dec. 5.
“He’s cool, yeah yeah, yeah. He and Tre. We are hecka close now,” says Albert. “I’ve always loved Cal since high school, so when I got the offer, I kept on seeing them and talking to them, and we just kept on talking, and I went on the visit, and boom, boom, boom. It was me, Tre and Vic. We hung out, ate and then we just went out and talked to some girls. It was cool. It was just the official visit, man. It was nice. I did what I had to do.”
This past semester at Diablo Valley College, Albert took a speech and debate class, and learned as much about himself and what he can do, as he did other people, and the art of debate itself.
“The hard thing about my speech class was actually – it wasn’t about talking; it was more about presentation,” says Albert. “You still have to get up and talk, but I ain’t shy, about anything. On a project, I realized that there were people who were as scared as I was, or even more scared, more nervous than I was [to get up and speak]. I said, ‘Shoot, y’all are talking alright, and I’m the one who has a speech impediment.’”
That speech impediment didn’t get in the way of Albert posting a 3.2 GPA at DVC, enabling him to enroll early at Cal, ready for spring football. But, it wasn’t exactly a straight line. While the Bears held the high ground going into Albert’s official visit, Oregon State was close behind, but after Mike Riley left Corvallis for Nebraska, the Huskers got involved, and the Beavers fell off. But, with all the coaching shuffling going on, Cal emerged as the one constant.
“The last few weeks, were some of the craziest few weeks I’ve ever had. It was a crazy experience. I learned a lot about the whole business side of the sport. I’m just glad that I have an opportunity,” says Albert. “It is a testimony, that I will have a chance to show other people that it’s possible, even though I came from not having anything. I didn’t have anything.”
Now, he has, as he says, a huge opportunity: At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, he has a very, very good chance to play right away, and play in front of his family. That, he says, had him thinking he’d commit even before his official visit.
“Yeah. I was close,” says Albert. “It’s close to home, and I said, ‘I can play here. I see myself at Cal.’”
As for playing early?
“Well, shoot, it was huge. It was huge,” says Albert. “It was probably the main reason why I signed there.”
The main reason Albert will be able to get a Chance Early on is because, in addition to his size, he, as defensive backs coach Greg Burns told him, just executes.
“I execute. That’s what he was always saying, that I can execute things,” says Albert, who’s looking forward to getting to work, both on the field and off. “Man, just the hard work. That’s the only thing I’m about to do. It’s hard work and school. School, school and school. School, school, school.”
And, while he’s learning, he may teach his teammates a thing or two, as well.