Religion-sports story of the week

AbdallahThe "game of the week" in college football this weekend brings gridiron fans a match-up between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the USC Trojans. Tucked in the middle of all the sports news hype around this story is what maybe one of the first Palestinians to play in "major-college college football." The Columbus Dispatch ran what is a disappointingly short "Meet a Buckeye" feature where senior defensive tackle Nader Abdallah talked briefly about his faith, how it impacts his personal life and athletic ability and the fascinating impact it seems to have on his teammates:

Q As the team's only Muslim, do you enjoy educating your teammates about your faith?

A Over the offseason, coach (Jim) Tressel asked me to bring Muslim Hadiths (written traditions of the prophet Muhammad) and quotes from the Quran to put in his Winners Manual (book). He wanted me to enlighten the team about my spirituality, and it was great, because a lot of guys got to learn different things. I had guys coming up to me all the time asking me, "Hey, can you bring more stuff in? I would love to learn about this." I'm happy I was able to open the horizons of some of these guys. Q I've heard you say you're the first Palestinian to play major-college college football.

A That's great for me and my community, and I've got so many fans across the country and across the world that are rooting for me. So just being able to be out there and represent Palestine and being able to represent being a Muslim, it's really inspiring to me.

Q Do you get interview requests from Palestinian media?

A Oh, definitely. I've got always getting into contact with me.

Q Is it difficult dealing with Ramadan fasting during the season like this?

A Today (Tuesday) out there it was like 92 degrees, and it was hard, but you've just got to stay focused. If I do miss a day and I feel like I'm dehydrated and I feel like I'm going to pass out, I obviously break it (the fast). But I have to make it up at the end of the month.

Unfortunately I most likely won't be watching the game (on ABC at 8 p.m. EST), but if any readers do catch what could be one of the best early-season college football match-ups in awhile, please let me know if Abdallah's name comes up and whether or not the announces discuss his personal faith.

What is also interesting about Abdallah is that he was known as a "good character" recruit for the school's football program in the sense that he wasn't going to be the party-all-night, get-in-trouble-with-the-lawtype of players that sports fans hear more and more about these days.

I would also like to know more about the religious views of Buckeys coach Jim Tressel, but that is probably an issue for an entire separate story.

Hopefully this 6'5" 300 pound defensive tackle makes it to the NFL next year because I am hoping sports fans get to know more about him and how his faith influences his life and play on the field.

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