This is the first in a series of profiles on the top 15 players on The Detroit News Blue Chip list. Today: No. 15, West Bloomfield wide receiver Taj Mustapha.
Taj Mustapha made sure he left high school with lasting memories, helping West Bloomfield to a record-breaking season, culminating with a trip to Ford Field to play in the Division 1 state championship game.
Mustapha, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound receiver, came up with 64 receptions for 907 yards and 6 touchdowns in a season when West Bloomfield won its first district and regional titles in school history before losing to OAA Red rival Clarkston in the state championship game.
“We had a great season,” Mustapha said. “Brothers who had the same goals and we got to our goals, just didn’t finish it out, but that’s life. You have to get over it. We all grew as a team and experienced a lot.”
No doubt, Mustapha and his teammates experienced a lot, like battling back from an 0-2 start, holding off Rochester Adams, 17-16, in Week 5 by stopping a late 2-point conversion, then using the momentum to earn a share of the Oakland Activities Association Red Division title.
West Bloomfield won a school-record 11 games, 11 straight before the 3-2 state title game loss.
So, where did Mustapha improve the most from his junior to senior season?
“I improved the most by getting off the line well, and I feel I did a good job of blocking, too,” Mustapha said. “I’m always working on being bigger, faster and stronger because that makes a big difference.”
Mustapha’s season highlight? Well, definitely playing in the state championship game, despite the loss to Clarkston, a team it defeated in Week 4, 37-16.
Mustapha had three receptions for 76 yards, including a 52-yard reception, but West Bloomfield couldn’t get the ball in the end zone, or for that matter a field goal, in the title game.
“Playing in the state championship game, definitely, that’s a great experience to have under your belt, especially during your senior year,” said Mustapha, who is roommates with cornerbacks Reggie Pearson of River Rouge and Donte Burton from Georgia.
Mustapha is using the momentum from his outstanding season to enroll early at Wisconsin, where he is currently taking classes, getting involved in winter workouts and learning the playbook so he can participate in spring practice to get a head start on the competition.
“I just felt like I was at home,” Mustapha said of Wisconsin. “Really reminds me of being at home with how the coaches treat you and the community is good too. My biggest thing was to try and learn the playbook so I could have the opportunity to play early.”
Expect Mustapha to hit the weight room, too, and work on his 40 speed while working on his major in business management. He graduated with a 3.5 grade-point-average.
Mustapha committed to Wisconsin this past summer, joining his West Bloomfield teammate, receiver A.J. Abbott. He picked the Badgers over Michigan State, Michigan and other Big Ten schools.
“We talked about coming together, how cool it would be,” Mustapha said of Abbott, who transferred to West Bloomfield from Northville before his senior year. “We’re good friends, and it’s great to be together for an extended period of time, four years.”
So, was it difficult to pick Wisconsin over Michigan and the Spartans?
“Michigan offered me, but after I already had committed,” Mustapha said. “I liked Michigan State a lot, grew up watching those guys and was always a Michigan State fan more than Michigan. I just feel really, really comfortable at Wisconsin.”