Fradi, fellow Arab Americans among team leaders in 2011
DETROIT — When fans think college football in metro Detroit, the first team that comes to mind is the Michigan Wolverines, followed by perhaps the far lesser-known Eastern Michigan Eagles.
|Nores Fradi, #58, is tied for the team lead in sacks with 7.5; he played high school football for Dearborn|
But now, after a semifinals win over Winston-Salem State by a score of 21-14 last Saturday, the Warriors (12-3 record) have created a buzz around campus as they prepare to face Pittsburg State (KS) in the 39th Annual NCAA Division Championship game in Florence, Alabama on Saturday for an 11 a.m. title game to be televised on ESPN2.
National pundits are calling the Warriors, who finished second in the South Division of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, a Cinderella story, but many of the players don't feel the same way.
“Us as a team this year, we felt we had a chance to go all the way, we knew we had an amazing team all along,” said redshirt freshman linebacker Nores Fradi of Dearborn, who is a leader with a team-best 7.5 sacks on the year. He's been one of the team's biggest all-around playmakers, notching 42 tackles and 9 tackles for loss while also forcing two fumbles, recovering another fumble and blocking a kick.
“Our goal was to win the GLIAC but we fell short...They told us to represent them in the playoffs and we knew we could win it all, so we've never looked back.”
The GLIAC is also home to Grand Valley State, the west Michigan college that has won Division II titles in the past and helped former head coach Brian Kelly carve out a path to eventually become the head coach of Notre Dame.
|Mazen Jaddou is one of the defense’s leaders as a safety for WSU, which is in the D-II title game.|
Amen is well known among Dearborn football fans as a former star for the Tractors, but he tore his ACL prior the season and has not been able to enjoy the run, at least not on the field, that is.
Fradi, who received a scholarship to Central Michigan but said he came back home because he feels more comfortable at Wayne State and also wanted to pursue a Criminal Justice degree at the Detroit college, said that Amen has been missed.
“It was a freak accident, and it's too bad because he would have been a big factor for our team this year,” Fradi said.
Despite the Fordson-Dearborn rivalry the two played huge roles in during high school, Amen and Fradi are friends with the Warriors. Fradi also knows Fordson coach Fouad Zaban well and other members of the Fordson program and says that Wayne State has received a great deal of support from area community members, including some who planned to travel to Alabama for the game.
“We're all friends, some of them went to Fordson but they're all happy for me, when I left Central I was happy that this is where I ended up,” Fradi said.
Wayne State is just the second unranked team in the AFCA Top 25 to ever reach the championship game, and they'll have their work cut out for them against the 12-1 Gorillas.
Head coach Paul Winters, who has already become the school's all-time winningest coach in his eighth season, was not available as he was preparing his team for the trip to Alabama.
But he told the Detroit Free Press after the win last week that he always had faith in a title run.
“When I recruited a lot of these guys, I told them that we would compete for a national championship,” he said. “Now they can see that everything has come together. We’re going to play for a national championship.”
Fradi believes the Warriors have a great chance to win it all if they play their game on Saturday.
“I believe we have more speed, talent, and technique along with great coaching...I thought we had the best talent in the nation as a team, so if we just play fast, we have a great chance to win.”