CAIRO - Getting a break in the prime of his career, an American Muslim footballer have made a month-long journey across thirty different states during last Ramadan, capped with the life-time spiritual journey to Makkah to perform pilgrimage.
It was a beautiful year, all over, Husain Abdullah, 27, an American football player who used to play at Minnesota Vikings last season, told The Kansas City Star.
We'd give talks to youth groups, and they'd bounce questions off us like, What's it like playing in the NFL? â¦ what's Brett Favre like â¦ ?
Islam and World Football Stars
Offering a role-model to young Muslims, Abdullah and his brother, Hamza Abdullah, who spent 2005-11 with the Arizona Cardinals, made a 30-city-in-30-day, cross-country road trip in a minivan during the 30 days of Ramadan in July and August.
They spoke and prayed at mosques and performed community service from coast-to-coast and in Canada, even while fasting during Ramadan.
After the trip, Abdullah decided not to return to the Minnesota Vikings last season, taking his wife, parents and two older brothers on a month-long spiritual journey to Saudi Arabia.
Everything is structured around prayer, Abdullah said.
At 4 or 5 a.m., you wake up and you go pray â¦ you chill, you do whatever you want to do and come back at noon, and you have another prayer. At midday, another prayer. At sunset you have another prayer, and at night time you have another prayer.
Taking the decision to perform the life-time journey of hajj in the prime of his career was a key decision to relieve the young player.
It was something that weighed heavy on me, he said.
It's something Muslims are required to do once in your lifetime, and we didn't necessarily have to do it then.
I see my parents getting a little older and sicker, and I was able to take them â¦ it was a dream for them, and it was a dream for me, and to experience that together was awesome, he added.
The United States is home to a Muslim minority of between six to eight million.
After spending a year away from football, Abdullah hoped to catch on with an NFL team upon his return, but there were no takers.
Regardless of how confident you are, the NFL is a business, he said.
I was working out on my own when I got back from Saudi Arabia. I was trying to get on last year, but it didn't happen. This year I got a chance.
A starter for the Vikings in 2010 and in nine games in 2011, he found a new chance when Chiefs general manager John Dorsey, a scouting director at Green Bay, remembered Abdullah from the Packers' two games each year against NFC North rival Minnesota.
When I first got here in January, we had not signed any future or veteran free agents who could help us, Dorsey said of Abdullah.
He was one of the eight or nine players I identified who can begin help build this roster and have a chance to compete for a job.
He gives you somebody who has played in the NFL, is a really good person. He's very smart, very spiritual â¦ and he's good in that locker room. It's going to fall on his shoulders to compete in training camp and see if he can earn that position.
The decision cheered Abdullah again.
It's been about a year and a half (away from football), but it's been a good year and a half, Abdullah said.
So it's fun to get back out here. Defensively, I've got to re-learn what the offense is trying to do to me because it's a new system. But as Coach Childress used to say, It's a man with a man, so you know you can get out there and play right now.'
And a quality special-teams player definitely has a place in this league.
Welcoming his new position with the Chiefs, Abdullah said he has no regrets about his decision to make the pilgrimage last year.
It was definitely worth it, he said.
I was content with the decision, even if I didn't get it another chance. But I'm only 27 years old, and I want to keep playing football. If I could do it all over again, I would, especially knowing at the end of it the Chiefs would pick me up.
I love football. I was an undrafted free agent. I wasn't paraded around. I had to play my way in. So I'm excited for this. But if it didn't happen, it didn't happen. There's life ahead.