Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Student Spotlight: Malik Antoine

Main content start
Portrait of Malik Antoine
Photo courtesy of Stanford Athletics.

June 15, 2020

Meet Malik Antoine, a graduate of the Bachelor’s program in MS&E. Malik describes his journey and why a Stanford degree is especially meaningful for him.

"Where I grew up, there are certain routes you're supposed to take. The courage comes in taking a different one."

People tell you that a Stanford degree means so much only after you graduate, but that’s not necessarily true.

For a kid from Louisiana, being accepted to such a prestigious university is a milestone of its own. It shows kids that you aren’t confined to the limitations the world places on you. You can go wherever you want and become successful.

This inspiration becomes more apparent due to the current climate our country is in. As we fight to end systemic racism and the harsh reality of police brutality against the Black community, I hope my journey at Stanford can give encouragement to the Black youth across America.

Where I grew up, there are certain routes you’re supposed to take. The courage comes in taking a different one. That’s why it was so important to leave, no matter how tough it was to leave my family.

If it wasn’t for their support and my trust in God, I might not have done it. I remember how my older brother, Marlon, came to all my games at U-High. But being away from my two younger brothers and younger sister, I wasn’t the same older brother to them that I wanted to be. I missed football games, basketball games, cheerleading events, track meets. That was the toughest thing, not being there for their big moments.

But the trade-off is this: My parents wanted me pushed academically, athletically, and socially. They wanted me to experience something different. They knew Stanford would catapult me to my full potential.  I am forever grateful for their support in pushing me to become the best version of myself.

Where I grew up, there are certain routes you’re supposed to take. The courage comes in taking a different one.

You don’t hear about Stanford when you’re a kid in Baton Rouge. I found out about Stanford from watching TV -- Andrew Luck and Richard Sherman and the Orange Bowl. My favorite color was red, and I thought, I like this team. My mom, Karen Thomas, told me it was a great academic institution, and I was hooked. I told my seventh-grade teacher that someday I would graduate from Stanford … and here I am.

Everyone that steps on campus feels a kind of initial shock. It hit me first academically in my first calculus class. The teacher was rapidly doing a deep dive in derivatives and everybody’s taking notes seeming to understand, and I’m thinking, I don’t understand a thing this guy’s saying.

It was the same on the football field. The first couple of practices I’m going against J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. He catches a pass over me and I’m thinking, in high school I would have knocked that pass down. The excellence at Stanford hits you real fast: This is the real deal. These people at Stanford are extraordinary in everything they do.

But being around so many successful people, you have no choice but to be successful as well. You feel it when you meet with teachers and explain a project to them and they give you affirmation. Or when you’re on the scout team guarding guys like Trent Irwin and Michael Rector and you hold your own. You feel like you belong.

Coach Shaw likes to say this: “There’s no locker room like ours.” And I truly believe that. This is why:

In mid-August during my first Stanford training camp, a massive storm that produced three times as much rain as Hurricane Katrina struck Baton Rouge. Water rose steadily, at first coming down the road, then covering our property, then coming into the house, and submerging all we had. The water topped at 5 ½ feet up the walls.

At Stanford, I was trying to fight for a role on the team when I came back from practice and was hit with the news. I was in shock, complete shock. I remember being in my room and having an emotional breakdown, just thinking of what my family must be going through.

But within days, the Stanford community came through, getting permission from the NCAA to raise more than $100,000 for our family through a GoFundMe page. If you looked at the list of donors, there were teammates, friends, coaches, alumni. I’m seeing all these names … some I barely knew or didn’t know at all. But to give anything means that someone cares about you. It was a blessing.

After spending a couple of days in Baton Rouge, the phrases I heard when I returned to Stanford were: “Do you need anything?” and “I’m here for you.”

That sparked the fire of being a member of the Stanford family, and that fire has been growing brighter inside me ever since. A fire that developed me into a leader and captain on the team. Stanford has truly helped me become a better man.

Now that I’m on the verge of a Stanford degree in management science and engineering, my dream is coming true. Next, I’ll be working toward a master’s in communication and completing my Stanford football career as a safety and team captain.

As my Stanford career comes to a close, I sometimes get a flash of all those amazing moments, as well as the bad ones, and how beautiful and perfect they all come together. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.

When that diploma is real, when it has my name on it, when I can see it and touch it and feel it, I’ll try not to cry. But I probably will.

I want to come back to Louisiana and show the kids at the same elementary school I went to, and the same middle school, that you’re not confined to the boxes people might put you into.

That paper is going to be an inspiration to the youth of Louisiana and Black youth from everywhere -- that you can go to Stanford and be anything you want to be. Dream big and always strive to reach your full potential.

Originally published as part of a series by Stanford Athletics.

Student stories & voices