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Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Football wasn't the first choice for Alabi

By Tom VanHaaren

For a kid who thought he was a basketball player, defensive end Joshua Alabi (Detroit/Cass Tech) has done very well for himself on the football field. Alabi, the No. 51 player in the country for the 2015 class, at one point decided he wasn’t even going to play football anymore.

“I played football in little league, but in eighth grade I stopped because I wanted to play AAU basketball,” he said. “It was too much money to do both, so my mom told me to pick a sport. At the time, I was playing basketball, so I picked basketball.”

That choice didn’t last long as his now good friend and teammate, Jayru Campbell, convinced him to pick football back up his freshman year.

Campbell and Alabi met in middle school, but didn’t become good friends until their freshmen year at Cass Tech. Campbell and Cass coach Thomas Wilcher convinced Alabi that football was where he was destined to be.

“I remember talking to him and telling him that Cass was known for football. He had the potential, height and size, and I told him he was blessed with that, so he should use it,” Campbell said. “I could tell at first how he carried himself that he didn’t want to play, but I kept talking to him and told him about the experience he could get. I don’t remember the exact time, but I remember him coming to practice and I noticed that he continued to pick up his pace and work ethic.”

Now Alabi, Campbell, and teammates Kyonta Carpenter, Keith Jones and Mike Weber -- who is ranked at No. 294 in the country for 2015 -- are inseparable. They all went from different sports to understanding that the recruiting process is now a part of their reality.

“We talk to each other about the process all the time. Sometimes we make jokes about each other and who has more offers,” Alabi said. “We talk about everything, but we will all probably do our separate thing. It would be cool for us to end up in the same place, but it’s probably not likely that we all do.

Football ended up as a good choice for the 6-foot-4 248-pound Alabi, who holds football offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Akron, Tennessee and Illinois.

He was a little overwhelmed when that first offer came in, but that was mainly because he always thought he would excel at basketball and not football.

“When I started playing for Coach Wilcher, I knew it would be a good experience and I knew he sent a lot of players to Division I or II schools,” he said. “I just didn’t know that I was going to be the one that would be the next big player coming out.”

Alabi comes from a humble background, native to Detroit, and is the first of his family to see this much success in sports. His father played soccer growing up in Nigeria, but at 5-foot-10, he is what Joshua describes as short. The family isn't used to this type of attention, but are handling it as it comes.

Alabi understands the opportunity in front of him and plans to do everything in his power to take advantage. He knows not every football player has the chance to make it this far, especially not one who thought he was a basketball star.