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Notre Dame Football

Kareem Family Living Out Super Bowl Dreams

February 11, 2022

Ken Kareem just had hip replacement surgery, but there was no way he was missing his son, Khalid, return to Michigan to play at The Big House in 2019. 

Notre Dame fell to Michigan that night, but deep inside the walls of Michigan Stadium, the elder Kareem was sitting inside the concourse watching the game on a TV. It was miserable, but Kareem was there to support his son - no matter what. 

Fast forward to January 2022, Kareem found himself once again in a concourse filled with emotion. This time it was Arrowhead Stadium. Kareem was filled with joy and tears of happiness as the Cincinnati Bengals and his son upset the Chiefs to punch a ticket to the Super Bowl. 

"Those tears were a combination of so many things," Kareem told ISD. "I started coaching when Khalid began playing. All those things went through my mind at that moment. To see your kid live out something he's dreamed about since he knew what a football was - the emotions got the best of me. 

"I almost felt like I made it to the Super Bowl. I was trying to hold my emotions in. It was tough."

It's a dream that crosses the mind of most fathers at some point, but few ever get to live it out.

The Kareem's get to live it out on Sunday and the moment isn't being taken for granted as Mr. Kareem arrived in LA on Thursday.  

"As a parent and a father, I've always been a fan of the game," explained Kareem. "Having sons, you always dream of that or think of that when you go in there when they're little babies. I want my son to play ball and play in the Super Bowl or World Series. I don't think there are too many dads out there where it didn't cross their minds at some point and it's surreal to be living it right now."  

The season got off to a rough start for the Bengals defensive end as Kareem found himself on injured reserve. 

Kareem missed the first seven games of the year and then another due to a concussion following a helmet-to-helmet hit on a fumble return at Denver. 

Yet, Kareem never thought about shutting it down. 

"The thing about Khalid is he's probably one of the most humble people that you will ever meet," stated Mr. Kareem. "Khalid's thing was to stay healthy. Injuries are an unfortunate part of sports and a reality of sports. 

"Our biggest was he came in healthy and he didn't come into the season at 100 percent.

"There was a time he may need to consider shutting the season down, having surgery and getting healthy. He told me he felt they were going to make a run and he wanted to be part of it. That's him."

The toughness won't come as a surprise to Notre Dame fans as the former Irish captain played through ankle injuries and a torn labrum during his final season in South Bend. 

"Those who have been fans of his since Notre Dame, they know he did the same thing his last season there," said Mr. Kareem. "He played injured because he has that passion for the game, winning and being part of something special." 

Kareem will step on football's biggest stage on Sunday and he'll be ready thanks to Notre Dame. 

"The thing about playing at Notre Dame that people underestimate is you play everybody," Mr. Kareem explained. "Notre Dame isn't stuck in a bubble playing the same conference teams every year. 

"That helped him prepare to play in big games, playing against teams you may not know much about and being prepared. Notre Dame helped him prepare, whether it be film, studying the opponent - it just prepared him mentally. Notre Dame did a lot for him. 

"I'm grateful and if you asked him about going to Notre Dame over schools he looked over, whether it was Alabama or Michigan, he'd say it was the best thing that ever happened to him." 

And if the Bengals win, more tears will be shed and a legendary celebration will take place in Farmington Hill (Mich.). 

"When they win, it'll be a surreal moment and a combination of blood, sweat and tears he put in and I put in as his father and coach," said Mr. Kareem. 

"You may see the Griddy. People have been trying to teach me to get a little bit better, so you may see me pull out the Griddy."

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