F.H. Harrison star Kareem picks 'Bama, with eye toward pros

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Khalid Kareem poses with his father Ken after his announcement at Farmington Hills Harrison on Wednesday.

Farmington Hills – A year ago, Khalid Kareem didn't have one college offer heading into his junior year at Farmington Hills Harrison.

On Wednesday, Kareem -- now a four-star recruit -- told the college football world he would be playing at Alabama, picking the Crimson Tide over 38 other offers, including finalists Michigan and Notre Dame.

That's what happens when you get the attention of dozens of college coaches with an 18-sack season. That's what Kareem, a 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive end, accomplished in 2014, helping Harrison to a 10-3 record and a spot in the Division 2 state semifinals.

It was the first time Harrison reached the semifinals since winning its 13th state title in 2010.

"Last year I didn't have any offers and my parents kept telling me , 'They're going to come, they're going to come, just trust the process and eventually it will happen,' and it did," said Kareem, who announced his decision at Harrison's football field.

Kareem said he made up his mind Tuesday night, and in the end it was the Tide over Michigan. He then told his father of his decision Wednesday morning before giving Alabama coach Nick Saban a call with the news.

"I ultimately decided last night, then conferred with my dad this morning," said Kareem. "It's the best fit for me and my family and gives me the best opportunity to play and succeed at the college and professional levels. The most exciting aspect is being on a national stage and being a contender for the national championship every season.

"I have a great relationship with Coach Saban. I talked to him earlier today about my decision and he said he'd love to have me."

Simply put, Kareem wants to play for national championships and he believes Alabama is ready to win the title now, while Michigan is in a rebuilding stage under first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh.

"Michigan, they are close to a hometown team and they have a great coaching staff in Coach Harbaugh and Coach (Greg) Mattison, and I've built a great relationship with them," Kareem said. "They're in the rebuilding process, but they are going to be good."

Khalid Kareem announces his decision to play for Alabama on Wednesday at Farmington Hills Harrison.

Kareem said he took a visit to Alabama two weeks ago and also attended the Tide's spring game in April.

Kareem is ranked the No. 1 defensive end in Michigan and the No. 30 defensive end overall in the 2016 class by

Kareem said he started gaining the attention of colleges after a three-sack game against rival Farmington in the season opener. He consistently played well the rest of the season.

Kareem committed to Michigan State in February but decided to re-open the process a few weeks later. He made his last visit at MSU two weeks ago and was pleased with Spartans coach Mark Dantonio's honesty.

Kareem plans to graduate in December and then start at Alabama in January, to give himself the best opportunity to play right away. Dantonio indicated that might not happen for him at MSU.

"It was good to hear that he was telling me the truth, and not just tell me there's going to be opportunities to play when there's not," said Kareem of Dantonio.

Kareem thinks he will have the opportunity to play right away at Alabama, at the defensive end and hybrid outside linebacker spots.

"Being a mid-year player, it will give me a better opportunity to play," said Kareem. "The size of the player they are thinking about for that position is basically me, and most of their players now are little bit undersized, so that too will give me a great opportunity to play."

Kareem said he made the decision to graduate early back in April. He said he felt relieved to get the announcement out of the way so he can concentrate on his senior season.

"I seriously considered most of the schools that offered me," Kareem said. "I visited Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Penn State. It's been a relief to decide where I'm going so that I can focus on playing with my team and getting out there and winning a state championship with them."

Kareem said the difference between this commitment and his previous one to MSU is that he is "100 percent sure this time."

He added: "I've gotten a chance to see everyone that was on my list. Before, when I committed to Michigan State, I only got a chance to see a (small) number of schools. But since then I got a chance to get out and view multiple schools and now I'm sure with my decision."

Veteran Harrison strength and conditioning coach Billy Slobin said Kareem has gotten much stronger since a year ago, going from 6-3, 230 pounds to 6-4, 260.

"He's made tremendous gains on his power cleans, his dead lifts and squats, which are really the most important lifts for football," Slobin said. "The real focus is on those lower-body core lifts. He's been training with all of our alumni who come back.

"His power clean probably went from a three-rep max of 200 to a three-rep max of 260. His dead lift is probably close to 450, 500 three times, and he now power cleans probably 265, 275 three times. He's a very hard worker in the weight room, very smart. He's hungry and has a great attitude."