Can Kwamie Lassiter II make the roster of the NFL’s Bengals? His brother says, ‘Yes.’
Kansas redshirt junior cornerback Kwinton Lassiter has been busy practicing football and studying his playbook while making sure to eat well and get his rest the past two weeks at preseason training camp.
One of his closest family members has been doing the same but in a different setting.
Former KU wide receiver Kwamie Lassiter II is a rookie free agent pass catcher/return man with the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals. Just months removed from KU, he’s battling to make the team’s 53-man roster.
“He is doing real well there, connecting well with (Bengals QB) Joe Burrow. He is hopeful. He has a really good chance. I think he’ll make the team,” Kwinton Lassiter said of his brother in an interview with The Star at Wednesday’s KU football Media Day.
Kwinton Lassiter, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound former Lawrence Free State High and Butler Community College defensive back, formerly from Chandler, Arizona, makes sure to keep in close contact with Kwamie II, who last season caught 59 passes for 653 yards and three touchdowns. Kwamie II also returned eight punts for 108 yards (13.5 average) his senior year for the (2-10) Jayhawks.
“We talk every day,” Kwinton Lassiter said of chats on the cell phone with his sibling. “He tells me to put my head down, keep working hard, do what you are supposed to do, work on your technique, fundamentals and go hard every day.”
Kwamie II, a 6-foot-0, 175-pound graduate of Hamilton High in Chandler, Arizona, has told Kwinton that the NFL “is really different in terms of not having to go to class, having a little more free time. He said it gives him time to study the playbook and get ahead.”
The reports out of Cincinnati have been positive concerning the chances of Kwamie Lassiter II making the Bengals’ roster or the practice squad.
According to stripehype.com, ESPN’s Ben Baby tagged Lassiter the Bengals’ “most surprising offseason standout” after minicamp workouts.
“The rookie undrafted free agent had an impressive offseason. The wide receiver even earned some first-team reps on offense. If Lassiter can work his way into the special teams rotation, he might have a shot at making the roster,” Baby wrote prior to the start of training camp.
According to stripehype’s Kristen Wong: “Bengals undrafted free agent Kwamie Lassiter has a fair shot at making the team in 2022. Lassiter isn’t winning the starting receiver job anytime soon — those three roles clearly belong to Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. Should one of them get injured this season, though, Lassiter has as good a chance as anybody to spring into the wide receiver 4 position and serve as a solid backup.”
Also, undrafted Wisconsin receiver Kendric Pryor is in the mix to make the team.
Kwamie Lassiter II is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his and Kwinton’s dad, Kwamie Lassiter, who played in the NFL 10 seasons after competing at defensive back for Butler CC then the Jayhawks from 1992 to 1994.
An undrafted free agent, Kwamie Lassiter played for Arizona from 1995-2002, San Diego in 2003 and the St. Louis Rams in 2004. Kwamie Lassiter, who once had an NFL-record tying four interceptions in a single game (for Arizona against the Chargers), died of a heart attack in 2019 at the age of 49.
Coincidentally, the Bengals special teams coordinator is Darrin Simmons, college teammate of the late Kwamie Lassiter at KU.
“A fantastic teammate,” Simmons said of Kwamie after practice last Friday in an interview with bengals.com. “Very respectful. Very kind. Great leader. Always had a smile on his face. Liked by everybody.”
Of Kwamie, Simmons added to bengals.com: “He was a field general. A playmaker. He was a big reason the pendulum began to swing for Kansas for several years with that (1992) team that beat BYU in the Aloha Bowl.”
Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said of Lassiter II: “Not a ton of production, but our scouts and our coaches are looking for traits on film. He’s a smooth runner. Good route running ability. Great ball skills. He protects the ball really well. Those combination of things have shown up on the field. He finds splits in the zones and makes tough catches.”
“He has to make some splash plays on special teams, but we’ve noticed he’s made splash plays on offense. He knows how to catch and take it up field,” said Bengals safety Michael Thomas to bengals.com. “He walked-on in college, so he’s been through it trying to prove himself. If he can pop a couple of punts, I can see him making it.”
Kwamie Lassiter II obviously could be cut at any moment or continue on with the Bengals, who have preseason games remaining against the New York Giants on Sunday and L.A. Rams on Aug. 27.
Simmons told bengals.com he’s looking for creativity.
“That’s a good word,” Lassiter II told the Website writer, hoping to provide just that on returns. “I feel like I can make some people miss and extend the play and get the offense back on the field.”
KU coach Lance Leipold is hoping Kwamie II makes it all the way through the final cuts and has a long NFL career.
“It’s awesome. It couldn’t happen to a better guy, how hard he’s worked, his whole story. I’m very proud of him,” Leipold said Wednesday. “After the minicamps in May or whenever that was ... Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow’s father is a friend of my wife and I. He sent me a text that Kwamie was doing really well. He said Joe likes him and he said, ‘That will be good (for Kwamie).’
Meanwhile, at KU, Kwinton Lassiter is coming off a 2021 season in which he recorded four tackles in two games. He had a tackle in his KU debut, the opening win over South Dakota, and had a solo tackle in a loss at Duke.
“Defense and offense I think we’re going to be great. It’s going to be exciting to see us play every game. I think it’ll be an exciting season,” Kwinton Lassiter said.
“Our defense … we bond real well on and off the field, which is important. Doing well with communication is a big part of defense,” Kwinton added.
Lassiter said one goal this season is to win games and also “to get my name out there.”
He’d love to someday vie for a spot on an NFL team like his dad and brother.
“The best part of being a Lassiter? That’s a good question,” he said with a smile. “I feel just the bond we have. When people hear our last name they know we’re going to work hard on and off the field.”