Don Bosco (Ramsey, N.J.) defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad established his passion for the game on concrete. He grew up playing street football and learned early on how to toughen up after getting knocked down.
These days, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound powerhouse is the one doing the knocking. And expect that his 'A' game won’t shift when Muhammad suits up for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio’s Alamodome on Jan. 5.
Though Muhammad hasn’t yet committed to a college, there’s no denying his commitment to the game.
What helped him skyrocket to this elite level? Pool workouts, a nutrition makeover and honing his skills…on the basketball court. Muhammad told us all about it.
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You played basketball growing up. How did the sport contribute to your football development?
It helped me with my speed and having a good change of direction, which I carried onto the field. It also helped me with jumping and blocking passes when the quarterback throws.
Tell us about your transformation since freshman season.
As a freshman, I just played the game. I never really thought about getting a [college] scholarship from a big-name school. As I progressed, I saw that I had the talent and started taking football more serious.
There’s a big difference now [in my diet]. As a freshman, I used to eat out a lot. Now I don’t as much. I eat healthy — a lot of fruit and vegetables. I drink a lot of water, and when I workout, I drink Muscle Milk.
Mistakes are only natural, and learning from them is what helps you evolve. What’s a mistake you’ve improved from?
In a game, I missed a play because I took an extra step up the field. I’ve worked on that extra step so by the next game, I’ll make the play that I missed before. I went to the park with my little brother and worked on getting off the ball and my football stance —sometimes your stance is the reason why you missed a guy or missed a tackle.
What about your training has boosted your athletic abilities?
During the offseason, I do exercises in the pool — running in place and jumping — for a couple hours to get my legs stronger. When I get out of the water, I feel much faster. I also sprint, jog and backpedal up hills. It helps me accelerate off the ball faster.
What advice can you share for players who want to taste success like you have?
You can have all the talent in the world, but if the other team works harder, you’re going to get beat. Put in hard work. Be committed and know that some nights and mornings are going to be hard. You’re going to be really tired, but you’ve just got to fight through it.