Maine East’s Dajani headed to UAB

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When Rami Dajani suited up for Maine East, his jersey had an Old English “M” on the front.

But on many occasions the superstar performed as if he had an “S” on his chest and a cape on his back.

Dajani, an All-State striker as a senior in 2012, has decided to bring his goalscoring powers to Division I Alabama-Birmingham.

At a crowded March 19 signing press conference in the Park Ridge school’s guidance office, teammates and coaches paid tribute to Dajani’s eye for goal, well-rounded game, leadership qualities and ability to make everyone else better.

Many also recalled a game last August against rival Notre Dame, a game that Dajani was expected to miss with hip and hamstring injuries.

Dajani arrived in street clothes, but after hearing Blue Demons coach Vic DiPrizio’s pregame speech, Dajani left for home and returned near the end of the first half wearing his uniform.

“Rami wasn’t supposed to play. But coach motivated him, and he came back in the second half and lifted up the team,” senior defender Atan Chabo said.

“It was huge motivation for us. It brought us back to our feet and made us smile.”

Maine East had trailed 3-0 before Dajani inspired a memorable comeback, scoring the game-tying goal and narrowly missing the winner in a 3-3 draw.

“I was just helping out during warmups and told my coach that I’d be right back,” Dajani said. “I just couldn’t take watching the game. Notre Dame is like a rival. I drove home. I called my dad and said, ‘Get my stuff ready!’ ”

The performance was one of many highlights during a senior season in which Dajani scored 31 goals and had eight assists despite missing seven games because of injury.

The season also began with Dajani’s observing Ramadan, which meant he was unable to consume food or water during many of the early practices and games.

“I’ve never seen a kid with such determination,” DiPrizio said.

“Even at the beginning of the season, with his religion, when he was fasting, he was still playing and practicing. He just pushes himself so much. You saw it during the season and how hurt he was, but he came back and pushed himself.

“He’s just a great kid. He’s been the team captain for three years and he’s a great leader in the school, you can see that by how many kids wanted to be (at last week’s signing ceremony).”

After being named to the all-state team, Dajani had his No. 9 jersey retired by Maine East. The only previous Blue Demons player to receive such an honor was 2009 grad James Kelly.

Though Dajani (88 goals, 42 assists) finished his career as the program’s all-time leading scorer, college offers were not abundant at first. A few college coaches had been scheduled to see him last fall but had to cancel their trips when injuries prevented Dajani from playing in those games.

Additionally, Dajani’s club team, Evanston’s JaHbat FC, does not play a national schedule.

The UAB offer eventually materialized because of a connection Blazers assistant coach Joel Wallace had with the coaches at JaHbat. UAB, which competes in Conference USA, has reached the last two NCAA tournaments.

“(UAB) are a really successful team, usually among the top 30 or 35 in the nation,” said Dajani, who is hoping to major in physical therapy. “They were looking for a starting forward who is going to come in and score 10 to 15 goals a year. That is a lot, but I believe I can do it.”

DiPrizio said he has little doubt about Dajani’s ability to succeed at the next level.

“Rami is a Division I player,” DiPrizio said. “All-around, he’s one of the best players we’ve ever had. He’ll drop back from his striker position, sometimes he’s back playing defensively. His vision, his ability with both feet … he’s great in the air (heading the ball) for his size. There really is nothing he can’t do.”

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