Seventh-grade Lion to play in national youth bowl game

Photo courtesy of the Sabbagh family

Photo courtesy of the Sabbagh family

Jamil Sabbagh, the seventh-grade son of Hussein and Jaime Sabbagh of Dearborn, has been selected to play in the 2010 second annual Football University Youth All-American Bowl Jan. 10 in San Antonio, Texas. The game will be broadcast live on the World Wide Web.

Sunday Times Newspapers

DEARBORN – Like many young men who have tossed around a football for as long as they can remember, Jamil Sabbagh dreamed of someday playing in a bowl game. He just never thought it would happen while he was still in junior high.

Jamil, a seventh-grader at Woodworth Middle School, has been selected to play in the second annual Football University Youth All-American Bowl at 10 a.m. Jan. 10 at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio. The game will be broadcast live on the Web at

One of his coaches learned of the event online and thought it couldn’t hurt to nominate Jamil, who was one of 300 athletes from across the country nominated for the 44 seventh grade slots. A team of scouts and youth coaches reviewed his application form and highlight tape, then narrowed the field and interviewed finalists.

Jamil has been playing football since he was 8 years old. He is usually a running back and linebacker. His father, Hussein (“Sam”) Sabbagh, played fullback and defensive end at Fordson from 1988 to 1990. His grandfather was a linebacker at Fordson in the 1940s as well.

His mother, Jaime Sabbagh, has seen his focus on football have a positive influence on his academics as well.

What off-the-field lessons has he learned from football?

“Hard work and commitment pay off,” Jaime Sabbagh said. “If you stick your mind to something and stay focused, you can do anything.”

Jamil would love to play for the University of Texas Longhorns in college; his favorite professional team is the Chicago Bears. His best friends are his Dearborn Lion teammates, and they wish him well. He and his parents will fly to Texas for the week before the bowl.

The week in San Antonio will feature practices, skill competitions, breakout sessions with Hall of Famers and current and former NFL stars and celebrities. The young players also will have VIP access to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and will be honored during the game on Jan. 9.

Youth All-American Bowl players may be featured in Sports Illustrated for Kids as All-Americans.

SportsLink, founded in 2000, is a sports marketing and management company. It oversees many sporting events and properties, including the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, the nation’s premier high school football game, featuring the 90 best players in a classic East vs. West matchup.

The company also sponsors Football University, an invitation-only camp for elite-level youth and prep players focusing on teaching technical skills in a small-group setting under the professional tutelage of former NFL players and coaches.

Jamil finds that practice and playing other sports help keep him in top form for football, as do basic push-ups and sit-ups. His mother admits sheepishly that he doesn’t do anything special nutritionally.

What’s his motto? “Practice hard and play hard.”

And, indeed, he plans to go out there in Texas and play as hard as he can.