There are so many parts of football that make the game unique. A true team sport full of emotions from both the players and the fans. The worst part about the game is when it comes down to the business side. When coaches are fired, and players are released, many times for reasons they can’t control.
Imagine a player like Azeez Al-Shaair on Saturday as the team you play for has already started to make cuts, and all you can do is wait by your phone hoping he doesn’t get a call. If you’re an NFL player on the bubble and your phone rings on the cut day, that usually means somebody has terrible news.
Al-Shaair arrived at the San Francisco 49ers facility ten minutes before the cut-down deadline. He told his teammates, “It’s 12:50, they’ve got ten more minutes.” Talk about a nerve-racking experience. The time passes, and Al-Shaair’s phone buzzes. It’s not the news he was hoping to avoid, but a text from Robert Saleh, and a couple of other coaches congratulating Al-Shaair that he had made the team. In 30 minutes, the rollercoaster of emotions took Al-Shaair from not wanting to look at his phone, to one of the proudest moments of his life.
Al-Shaair’s wife, who had been in the area since the final preseason game, was back at the hotel. She was the first person he informed, and the tears of joy were flowing once she received the news. Azeez explained the moment to NBC Sports Matt Maiocco on his 49ers Insider Podcast:
“It was a good intimate moment because it’s somebody that wanted me since I was in high school, seeing me go through so much. Through that whole trial and tribulations we went through together as a family, it just felt good to turn the pages of the book. At first, you’re like, ‘I really don’t like this book.’ Then you keep reading and keep reading, and it’s like, ‘You know what? This turned out pretty good.’”
Now Al-Shaair has to get back to work, as he prepares for his first real NFL action.
Al-Shaair is not a fan of the “UDFA” label that he will carry for the rest of his career. He talked about that:
“It’s like a sting to me. I hate that sound. I hate that name. I hate having that attached to me just because it just reminds me every time that I didn’t get drafted, that everybody passed up on me. There was 250, however many guys that they said were better than me. For whatever reason it was, whether it was the ACL or whatever, I didn’t care.”
The rookie will have to continue to shake off the rust and make plays. Al-Shaair has already beaten the odds by recovering from an ACL injury and making an NFL roster. Now it’s on him to take his game to the next level and earn playing time on defense.
“I know my worth. I know who I want to be. I know who I can be.”