The new University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff head football coach is excited to begin the season, according to the UAPB sports information director.
Habtom Keleta, who addressed the Pine Bluff Kiwanis Club on Wednesday, also said that Cedric Thomas will “give you a better breakdown of what his philosophies are in terms of packages. We have not named any (assistant) coaches yet, but we plan on naming coaches this month.“
Thomas, who succeeds Monte Coleman, who was fired after consecutive losing seasons, played football at UAPB in 1999 and 2000 as a defensive back. He was hired last month.
During his speech, Keleta spoke mostly of his own career and life.
A native of Ruston, Louisiana, Keleta earned an undergraduate degree in journalism from Ouachita Baptist University in 2006 and then earned a master’s degree in communications from Grambling State University in 2013.
His parents grew up in Eritrea, a nation in northeastern Africa between Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti and the Red Sea. They immigrated to the United States in the 1970s.
“My name means rich in God’s blessings,” Keleta said. “My life has been made out for me since birth. I appreciate my mom for that.”
Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a war that lasted for 30 years. He reflected on his understanding of Eritrean society as it was marked by its war.
Keleta said he visited his parents’ native country when he was 17 years old.
“That trip changed my life,” Keleta said. “I got to see the possibility of what I would have been if I had been born and raised in Africa. A lot of my cousins died in the war against Ethiopia. That was another big thing for me. I truly thank God that he gave me this opportunity before I even knew it to come to America and to be an American citizen: born and raised here.”
Keleta said he used to broadcast high school sports games. He has also been a sports information director at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, and at Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana.
He was hired by UAPB in 2017.
“I’ve done a lot of work in sports information for eight or nine years,” Keleta said. “It’s interesting and special that I would come back full circle to join the NCAA back where I started in Arkansas. It was a no-brainer for me, a perfect marriage.”