These are good and bad times to be Ohio State defensive lineman Nader Abdallah.
The good news is the 6-5, 300-pound Abdallah, a redshirt freshman, has cracked the two-deep as the Buckeyes prepare to host Miami (Ohio) in their season opener on Saturday.
The bad news is that Abdallah’s hometown of New Orleans has been changed forever by Hurricane Katrina, which slammed into the Gulf Coast on Monday. (Remnants of the storm tracked north through Ohio on Tuesday, dumping several inches of rain and continuing north.)
The storm has done untold millions of dollars of damage, killed at least 70 across the Gulf Coast and left parts of New Orleans under water. The city sits below sea level and depends on a series of levees from keeping it safe from floodwater from the Mississippi River and Lake Ponchatrain. That system was failing in the aftermath of this storm.
There was no electric power or available drinking water in many parts of the city and looting was widespread.
Abdallah met with reporters briefly Tuesday to discuss the status of his family, which lives in the suburb of Metairie but operates a business within inner city New Orleans in the Magnolia projects.
“Down in New Orleans right now, I have talked to my mom, my dad, my brother and my sister,” Abdallah said. “They left out of town and went to Houston. The only person I haven’t talked to yet was my brother. He’s still down there. I can’t get a hold of him because the phones are down.
“I’m waiting on a phone call from him and when I get that I’ll know that he’s all right.”
Abdallah said his brother stayed behind at the family business.
“We had a shop down there,” he said. “That’s why it took a long time to get out. My brother stayed in the shop during the hurricane. I’m just waiting for his phone call to make sure he’s safe.”
Abdallah talked about the anxiety he has been through this week, waiting on the storm to reach land.
“I was just watching the television every night and just praying to God that hopefully everything was going to be all right,” he said. “Just making sure my parents and family got out of town, that was my number one concern.
“It’s crazy and I see on TV buildings torn down and streets under water. That’s not cool. A lot of people are hurting and dying.”
Abdallah explained how the levee system can also be a detriment when the city fills with water and has nowhere else to go.
“The levees herd us,” he said. “It’s like a bull. When the water gets in, it can’t get out. We need to knock those levees down and make them stronger. They need to be ready for a Category 5 (storm), not a Category 3.”
Through it all, Abdallah has just thrown himself into his football.
“Practice gets my mind off the storm and helps me a lot,” he said. “I just watch TV until I fall asleep.”
The hard work has paid off as Abdallah figures to be on the field in a featured role, backing up starting defensive tackle Marcus Green on Saturday.
“I feel like I had a great camp so far,” he said. “I’m seeing myself move up higher and higher. I’m in a four-man rotation right now. I’m in the two-deep. I’m pretty sure I should get a lot of playing time. I think we all just make each other better.”
EDITOR’S NOTE -- Bucknuts staff member Charles Babb wrote a magazine article on Nader Abdallah’s home life and background in an edition of Bucknuts The Magazine last year. Here is a link to that article, which contains Abdallah’s incredible story:
Bucknuts Magazine Story on Nader Abdallah