When Kareem Ali showed up at 10th and Diamond Streets for the last of the Matt Rhule football summer camps on July 19, the former Maryland commit figured he was “just going for a workout.”
But that changed after Ali, ranked the No. 28 nationally by Rivals.com among defensive backs in the class of 2015, arrived at the Owls’ Edberg Olson facility.
The Timber Creek corner began that Saturday morning by asking his father, former Owl defensive back Kareem Sr. (formerly Gilliard) some questions that caused his eyebrows to arch.
“He said, ‘dad would you be mad if I decommitted?’ “I said, ‘son, whatever you want we’re going to support.’ If he wanted to go to the west coast it would have been a sacrifice but we would have made it happen.”
The questions continued.
“Dad, if Temple won eight games and went to a bowl game, what would you think? I told him, ‘man, I bleed cherry and white.’ But what are you getting at?”
By the end of the day, Kareem Jr., a June Maryland commit who chose the Terrapins over powerhouses such as Florida, Ohio State and Michigan State, had flipped and was coming to Temple.
His father knew Rhule from when the Temple coach played at Penn State. He grew up in Camden with Owls defensive backs coach Francis Brown, and he served as a mentor to new defensive line coach Elijah Robinson, who, like Ali Sr., played at Woodrow Wilson in Camden. The Timber Lake corner was also impressed that Temple defensive coordinator Phil Snow had spent almost all of his 38 years as a defensive backs coach at the collegiate level, passing on NFL jobs to do so.
But most important to the Timber Creek cornerback was being able to be close to home and play in front of his parents – his mother ran track at Temple – and to see his younger brother grow up.
“Maryland is just two hours away, but there was so much I felt like I could have just playing right here in my own backyard,” Ali said. “I felt the pull to stay home that day. I probably should have made one more visit to Temple before I committed.”
Any chance he may change his mind again.
“Not at all,” he said. “I made the right choice this time.”