Imagine it is 2012 and times are tough leading you, your mom and seven siblings to move in with your grandmother.
And then one night would change everything forever.
The smell of smoke awakens you in the middle of the night and your instincts kick-in. You wake everyone else in the house and they all get out safely.
But now you stand there watching your home being swallowed by fire and there is nothing you can do.
Well, there will be a period of moving around before settling. You will sleep on the floor so the family can all fit in one room. There will be two-hour bus rides for you to get to school. There will be a time where eating one-meal-a-day will be your norm.
However, through it all, your eyes will never waiver from that one thing that keeps you going.
And football will be your saving grace. During this time you will learn the importance of pushing forward. As a result, you will earn a scholarship to Florida Atlantic University where you will go on to set all kinds of records as a four-year-starter at LB.
While at FAU, you will also have your two younger brothers move into your apartment to alleviate your constant worry about their well-being.
Heading, into your senior season at FAU you had already rewritten the defensive record books and you had cemented yourself on the NFL radar but not before one more obstacle.
It’s another day of practice in October until you tear your ACL, ending your senior season at FAU.
But that warrior spirit will come through once again as you will aggressively rehab your knee so you can participate in the FAU Pro Day. You do participate in the FAU Pro Day and in fact, you land in San Francisco.
The 49ers sign you as an undrafted rookie free agent; partially because one of your old college coaches is now on staff with the 49ers, Chris Kiffin.
Undrafted rookie free agents don’t make the 53-man roster and contribute as rookies but you’re determined to make it.
In fact, you do make it.
You play a key role on Special Teams and will start four games because of injuries.
You are Azeez Al-Shaair and you are just getting started.
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