FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. — Standing with an ear-to-ear grin, and flanked by a pair of satisfied parents, Farmington Hills Harrison senior-to-be Khalid Kareem just knew; it was a surprising move, but he knew that he had just made the correct choice.
Widely considered a Michigan lean throughout his recruiting process, the 6’4”, 260-pound, 4-star defensive end threw everyone for a loop Wednesday by committing to Alabama—and not Michigan—in front of friends, family, teammates and local media on the football field at Harrison High School.
For weeks, 247Sports’ Crystal Ball had given the Crimson Tide less than a 10 percent chance of landing Kareem, the No. 10-ranked SDE of the 2016 class. At one time, the Crystal Ball had given Michigan an 89 percent chance.
“I think it was 95 percent, actually,” said Khalid with a laugh. “[Picking Alabama] was kind of a surprise.”
To an extent, Ken Kareem, Khalid's father, was surprised. But then again, he wasn't that much. He and Khalid speak about everything, so when the Crimson Tide became more of a possibility, dad was right there to listen and assist.
“I knew it was Alabama last night. I knew last night…I knew last night,” said Khalid’s father, Ken. “But the problem was last night, we weren’t 100 percent. So when he told me he wasn’t 100 percent, I stopped everything. That’s why we stopped talking last night. We said, ‘We’ll finish this up tomorrow.’ This morning, he said, ‘I really like [Alabama]. I think I can play the position there.’”
And that was it.
Contrary to popular belief leading up to his decision, the Wolverines were never a sure thing—they were there, yes, and they were certainly in contention until the end. But the idea of a “silent commit” or otherwise was “100 percent false,” according to the Kareems.
At one point, Khalid had considered staying home, but Ken wanted to make sure his son felt that way for the right reasons. He didn’t want him sticking around to make others happy.
“I told him to follow his heart,” Ken said. “Know what you’re doing. He looked at me and said, ‘You know what? I’m going to go to Alabama.’”
Staying home “was an idea, but I did want to go out—see a change of scenery,” said Khalid, who sees a better chance of immediate success in Tuscaloosa than he does in Ann Arbor.
Simply put, Alabama is ready to win now. Playing for Nick Saban, who has recently won three national titles (2009, 2011 and 2012), was an opportunity of a lifetime, one that deserved serious consideration.
“Michigan’s going through a rebuild,” said Khalid. “They’ll be good in a couple of years, I have no doubt, but Alabama is Alabama—the best team in the country.”
Humble and pretty even keeled, Khalid wasn’t overcome with emotions on Wednesday. Those around him were overjoyed—his friends, teammates, parents and coaches—but he was rather stoic, handling his commitment get-together as more of a formality than a party.
He’s been like that during his entire recruitment, really—very little talk, mostly action. About a year ago, Khalid began to receive considerable interest from programs across the country. On Jan. 15, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh paid a visit and extended an offer, which Khalid “was blessed to have received.”
“Michigan is a great program, it has a great coaching staff, but I’m very happy with my choice of Alabama,” Khalid said while embracing his mother and father, who followed with a "Roll Tide!"
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer