For kids growing up in Germany, football, a.k.a. soccer, is a way of life.
That was not the case for Kasim Edebali, who instead fell in love with America’s version of football after seeing the Giants and Ravens battle it out in Super Bowl XXXV in 2001.
“Soccer was not really my thing,” said Edebali, born and raised by his mother, Nesrin, in Hamburg. “I saw football on TV and thought it looked cool. I asked my mom to find me a team, and we only had one around.”
Edebali, then 10 years old, picked up the pads and learned how to play the game with the Hamburg Huskies, and by 16 he was part of the U19 German national team playing in the European Championships alongside current Indianapolis Colts linebacker Bjoern Werner.
Edebali caught the eye of Kimball Union Academy coach John Lyons, who was an assistant with the Cologne Centurions of NFL Europe at the time, and through the USA Football International Student Program he was granted the opportunity to play football at Kimball Union, where he spent two years honing his game.
With raw athletic talent, Edebali stood out enough as a defensive end to get looks from Division 1 colleges, but when Lyons showed him a second-ranked Boston College squad led by quarterback Matt Ryan, he started to take things more seriously.
“These were some of the best players I’d ever seen,” said Edebali. “At first I was like, ‘What is college football?’ But when he put on BC, I thought I could never play at that level.”
Edebali was wrong, and after being noticed by former BC coach Frank Spaziani at a football camp, Edebali soon was enrolling at The Heights.
He redshirted as a freshman, allowing him an extra year to learn the system and the intricacies of the game, and in his first season (2010) he appeared in all 13 games, recording 13 tackles.
By his sophomore year, the 6-foot-3-inch, 246-pound Edebali was a starting defensive end, and over the next two seasons he racked up 86 tackles and two sacks.
Along with offensive lineman Ian White, Edebali was named a captain prior to this season, a role he welcomes.
“It’s humbling, but I’m ready to take responsibility,” said Edebali. “It’s not just me and Ian, it’s senior leadership as a whole, all together. We just want to lead by example. I tell these young guys, ‘Don’t take plays off, be coachable, and don’t be lazy.’ These new guys have to understand that when a coach tells them to do something or that they are doing it wrong, to not take it personally, keep playing.”
In May, Edebali received his bachelor’s degree in communications, so he tends to have some extra time on his hands between practice and evening classes, and much of that is spent watching film and studying the Eagles’ next opponent.
“Our coach always tells us to outprepare everyone,” said Edebali. “It’s just as important to watch film by yourself and with the team. I take these young guys in and let them know that together we need to be as prepared as we can be.”
Unfortunately, those films never showed Week 1 opponent Villanova pulling off the fake punt that caught the Eagles off guard, putting BC in a 7-0 hole to start its 2013 campaign.
“For the defense, it hurt a little bit, like a stab in the heart,” said Edebali. “On the sidelines we just kept saying that this doesn’t change anything and we need to keep playing our game.”
Trailing, 14-7, after the first quarter, the Eagles did not allow another Wildcats score the rest of the day, as Edebali looked every bit the captain with 5½ tackles (three for a loss), a sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
The Eagles notched a 24-14 victory, and defensive coordinator Don Brown took to Twitter to dub Edebali “Defensive Dude of the Week.”
“I thought the kids did a great job in the second half,” said coach Steve Addazio. “I thought on defense we had some scheme change, we had some assignment sure-ups, we played a little bit more confidently. I wanted to see us be physical and we certainly were.”
That defense, with Edebali at the lead, must rise to the occasion Friday night when BC hosts Wake Forest in its Atlantic Coast Conference opener.
“It’s always different playing under Friday night lights,” said Edebali. “It’s a completely different atmosphere. I’m really excited, it’s going to be crazy.”
The Demon Deacons are coming off a 31-7 win over Presbyterian, which included a five-catch, 143-yard performance from freshman Jonathan Williams. With an offensive line that averages 307 pounds, Edebali will have his hands full with the Deacons, but he is ready for the challenge.
“Coach always talks about the importance of winning that first ACC game,” said Edebali. “Wake Forest is a big, tough team, but we are confident.”