When Ali Jawad was a freshman at Dearborn High School, he met a senior soccer player named Soony Saad who inspired him to become more serious about the sport.
Saad and his brother, Hamoody, both went on from DHS to attend the University of Michigan and play on the school's soccer team. And now, like his idol, Jawad is heading to UM, too.
"It's kind of a legacy, but it's a great school as well," said Jawad of his plans to head to Ann Arbor in the fall. "It's exciting, and to follow their path is something I've wanted to do since freshman year."
Jawad was one of four DHS student-athletes to sign a letter of intent to play for and attend a college. The students were four of thousands who made their college plans official this week, as Wednesday, Feb. 6, was National Signing Day.
A ceremony was held for the students at DHS Wednesday.
All four said they'll miss their friends, families, and mom's home cooking in Dearborn. But they also said they're looking forward to their next big step.
"I'm excited to meet new people," said Ollie Ajami, who finished his last season as the Pioneers' quarterback in 2012. He'll be continuing as a QB for Grand Valley State University, and thanked his coach, Davd Mifsud, and his dad for their support.
"This is probably the most exciting moment of my life," Ajami said of signing to play at GVSU.
Teammate Sean MacFarlane, who will be playing football for Northwood University, agreed.
"It's pretty exciting to get to play a sport that we really love," he said, naming "beating Fordson in the playoffs" as his other favorite moment at DHS.
MacFarlane and Courtney Wensley, who will also be attending Northwood and playing softball, also thanked their parents as their No. 1 supporters.
"They supported me from the time I was little," Wensley said.
All four students will be attending college with partial scholarships. And all of them will be heading into the next chapter of their lives with excitement, and the confidence that they can succeed.
Added Jawad, "The hard work pays off."