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Mustafa Khaleefah's Journey From Iraq To Michigan State One Of Perseverance

A year away from stepping on Michigan State's campus, Mustafa Khaleefah will bring more than just his 6-foot-6, 282-pound frame to East Lansing. He'll bring a story that's chock full of overcoming obstacles.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Mustafa Khaleefah may still be a year away from officially becoming a member of the Michigan State football program, but for a program that has become synonymous with eclipsing expectations, Khaleefah's travels from Iraq to eventually earning a scholarship offer from Mark Dantonio only seems appropriate.

The senior offensive lineman from Dearborn High School has only played football for two years but his quick ascent has him on the cusp of Big Ten football. So you can excuse him for not exactly being afraid of possibly playing in environments like Ann Arbor, Mich. or Columbus, Ohio next fall. Growing up in the midst of a war in the unstable Middle East provides perspective.

"There was some good moments," Khaleefah told the Detroit Free Press. "You remember the good stuff, of course, but there was a lot of bad stuff, too. The good stuff, for example, was my grandpa, every morning, would take me out to eat someplace. But there was a lot of bad stuff, like people getting killed."

Long after becoming quite familiar with soccer while in Iraq and after spending some time in Virginia before his family moved to Dearborn, Mich. prior to Khaleefah entering sixth grade, it didn't take long for coaches to notice.

Provided the chance to go out for the varsity football team as a sophomore, his size and strength served as a way in.

"We don’t always get 6-3, 220; we get them only every so often," Dearborn football coach John Powell told the Free Press. "I saw him running agilities and I was: ‘Holy, what is this? What is going on with this kid?’ He was a soccer kid; he came from a soccer background.

"I saw him move, and my line coach goes: ‘He’s going to play on the varsity.’ I said: ‘No kid has never played football in their lives and then played on the varsity at Dearborn High as a 10th-grader with no experience.’ "

Khaleefah is one of Dantonio's 16 pledges in the 2017 recruiting class - having committed June 23 - and is one of four offensive linemen currently committed to Dantonio and his staff.