MINNEAPOLIS - There is no place in the world. "As a football player, he's outstanding, " says Frank Haege, Augsburg football coach. Mustafa Adam would rather be…"His work ethic is incredible," says Haege. Than right here, right now.
"He appreciates that he gets to play college football," says Haege. That's because Mustafa playing football for Augsburg University, almost didn't happen. And for good reason.
"I feel kind of guilty that I doubted him, you know what I mean," says Haege.
Auggie head coach Frank Haege recruited Mustafa out of River Falls High School in Wisconsin four years ago. And didn't stop recruiting him even after Mustafa was diagnosed with cancer in March of his high school senior year.
"He told us exactly what was going on that would not be able to play at all freshman year and didn't know when, if ever, might be able to play," says Haege.
What made the cancer diagnosis even more devastating, was it came during Mustafa's final checkup, five years after being told he had cancer as a high school freshman.
"There's no way, I'm going into college and ready to play football, ready to go, there's no way going to happen again, but it did, " says Mustafa.
A rare form of cancer came back. The timing was awful.
Mustafa and his best friend Sebastian Larson were about to start their freshman year of college, as roommates.
"He's the closest person I've ever had to go through something like that –so all you can think to say is, it's going to be okay, its going to be alright, and then pray those words hold water you know," says Larson.
A friendship quickly evolved into a brotherhood. Mustafa was in and out of the hospital undergoing chemo treatments almost his entire freshman year at Augsburg with Sebastian at his side.
"There's not many times where you can be on a bunk bed with your roommate below you wake him up and have him give you a shot right in your dorm and then send you off to class –not many people do that for you," says Mustafa.
"It takes some sort of struggle to fully understand a true friendship and I truly believe that's what we have here." But it doesn't mean there wasn't some dark days for Mustafa. Some of the worst he says involved watching football practice from his hospital room at the Masonic Cancer Center, which is right across the street.
"Mask over my face, just bald and sick –what if I can't play football anymore?" says Mustafa.
But here he is, back on the field and living for the moment. Football teaches life lessons. And so do parents. And for Mustafa those lessons have stuck with him. His father, a college professor, stressed academics not sports. He also taught Mustafa about courage. His father died of leukemia when Mustafa was just 13 years old.
"Knowing he's watching, looking down on me – I know he wants me to be the best student first, then athlete –that along makes me want to be successful in every way I can," says Mustafa. "I'm ready to take life on –I hope it's a bump in the road and its clear waters from here."