Enter "Sandman"

To a man, the incoming group of Rice Football signees is working diligently to be ready for the physical demands of college football when they report this summer. I caught up with British Columbia Defensive Tackle Hosam Shahin Tuesday, and got a slightly different slant on his approach to preparations...

Playing Division I college football requires not only a high degree of athletic ability, but to be sure also a certain degree of mental toughness.

Often players don't realize the mental demands placed on them until they arrive on campus.

Like the other members of the 2009 Signing Class, Rice Defensive Tackle signee Hosam Shahin is already making physical preparations; but he's also focused on more cerebral preparations. When we talked Tuesday afternoon he shared a lot about his opinions on the mental aspects of football, and how important he feels they are to his success.

Here are excerpts from our interview with him.

Owl Digest: How are your preparations going for Rice Football?

Hosam Shahin: "Really good. I love the workout I got from Coach Kaaiohelo. I've been working really hard to increase my size, my strength, and my speed."

OD: What are your current measurables and srength numbers?

HS: "I'm benching about 375 right now; my squat is over 500; and my power clean is about 275. I can rep front squats with three plates (315 lbs.). I love the workout. I feel great right now. I've also been fortunate to be able to train with some former CFL players and I'm also doing speed work with a former sprinter from the Canadian Olympic Team. We are doing some training at a sand hill."

OD: Sand?

HS: "Yes. It's a sand hill that's about a 60 degree angle and 30 to 40 meters high. I know that one of my best assets as a player is my speed, so I'm working hard to improve that. I'm running the 40 in the low 4.9 second range and I also did a hand-timed 4.5 second shuttle last week. The workouts in the sand have really helped my speed; but even more important they are grueling mentally. I think being mentally prepared for football is just as important as being ready physically."

OD: "You sound like you've really given a lot of thought to your preparations.."

HS: "I really have. I think I'm getting the opportunity of a lifetime to play college football at Rice. I want to be ready. I know the game itself is challenging; it will be even moreso at the next level. I want to try to achieve an edge mentally. I believe the body will follow if you can truly focus your mind on achieving your goals."

OD: "With a few guys banged up at the Defensive Tackle position you will likely get a chance to play early. Are you excited about that?"

HS: "I didn't really expect that. I wasn't aware of the injuries - but that is really motivating to know I might get to play."

In talking to Hosam, its obvious he plays the game with a high degree of intensity. He mentioned "gaining an edge" and "mental toughness" several times during our conversation. I really like his aggression and focus as a player.

Though Shahin is a college ready 6-4 275 pounds right now, he will still need time to work on technique. He has only played football for 3 years, having moved to Canada from Saudi Arabia as a freshman in high school. With his size, speed, and mental approach to the game; he obviously has a very high upside.

Safe to say, his best football is ahead of him - glad it will be at Rice.

Hosam will report to Rice at the end of June this summer, after he graduates and has passed on an opportunity to play in a Canadian All-Star Game to focus entirely on his workouts.

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