Al-Shaair earns special tribute on Senior Night
BOCA RATON — When Florida Atlantic began to go down the numerical roster to honor its seniors ahead of the Owls’ kickoff for Senior Night, it could’ve been confused for a glaring omission by beginning with No. 3, cornerback Shelton Lewis.
No. 2, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, is FAU’s all-time leading tackler and had his college career cut short earlier this season when he tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in an October practice ahead of the Owls’ trip to Marshall.
Don’t worry. Al-Shaair wasn’t forgotten on Saturday at FAU Stadium. He was the grand finale.
Although Al-Shaair was unable to attend Senior Night festivities as he rehabs the knee, his fiancée, Yahaira Onofre, was there to represent him on the field. She (and he) received a significant ovation when Al-Shaair’s name was announced. The FAU football Twitter account released a video ahead of the game against Conference USA foe Charlotte with a message from Al-Shaair.
While Al-Shaair is done playing college football, he still has his NFL hopes ahead of him. He recently did an interview with Fox Sports Florida that aired this week and discussed that notion and the fact that returning for a senior season at FAU allowed him to complete his degree.
“I know I’m going to get through it. I know I’m a tough person, I’m going to battle back and get back to where I want to be,” AlShaair said. “I guess it’s knowing the path that you wanted to take and the road that you wanted to take to get to where you wanted to be, and now, obviously, knowing what path I’m going to have to take.
“It’s pretty much a symbolism of my whole life — just being tough and being hard-fought. From that aspect of it, it wasn’t hard for me to pick my head up and get back to work.”
Al-Shaair went in-depth on what he experienced as he injured his knee.
“When it first happened, I kind of knew it happened because I felt the same feeling in my elbow last year when I hurt my elbow — and just that same kind of pop sound,” Al-Shaair said. “Instantly, when I heard it, I was just at a loss for words almost.
“I’d be sitting down, just start crying. I was thinking about so many different things — thinking about my family, thinking about my team, thinking about myself, my future and everything like that.”
Al-Shaair was able to rely on a conversation with motivational speaker Inky Johnson, who had his college career at Tennessee come to an end in 2006 with an injury that permanently paralyzed his right arm.
“He said, ‘At some point, you’re going to have to get over what you thought was supposed to happen, and deal with what is happening,’ ” Al-Shaair said. “It was something that I wrote in my notebook and I never forgot it, and instantly, once I got out of that dark place, t h a t ’s wh a t I t h o u g h t about.”
(Really) fast start: FAU has been known to get off to a fast start and put together strong opening drives. The Owls’ opening drive on Saturday was another level of fast.
As in, the fastest opening score in FAU history.
Starting at the Owls’ 25-yard line, redshirt junior running back
lined up as an Hback, took a forward pass from behind the line of scrimmage on a jet sweep and scampered 75 yards for a touchdown.
Thirteen seconds into Saturday’s action, FAU scored its first points.
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It was Senior Night for Florida Atlantic and, while middle linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair couldn’t make it rehabbing his knee, his presence was felt in the Owls’ regular season finale against Charlotte on Saturday.