NEWTON, Mass. -- There are unconventional routes to college, and then there’s the route Kasim Edebali took to Boston College.
A native of Hamburg, Germany, Edebali said he was a “chubby little kid” when he got his first exposure to the game, thanks to the Super Bowl being broadcast on German TV. He remembers thinking football looked like something he might be able to play.
So he did some research and found a club team. Eventually he played for the German U19 national team, then landed a scholarship to attend high school and play football in the United States. That brought him to Kimball Union in Meriden, N.H.
From there, the path was a bit more conventional. Edebali camped at BC and said he loved the atmosphere in Chestnut Hill, so when the Eagles recruited him it was an easy choice.
In a 2011 season marred by injury and ineffective play, Edebali has been a BC stalwart. The sophomore defensive end has started every game at right end, and has recorded 26 tackles, half a tackle for loss, two pass breakups and one quarterback hurry.
“He’s doing well,” Luke Kuechly said of Edebali. “Him and Max [Holloway] have been playing real well. They’ve gotten some good pressure [on the quarterback] the past couple weeks. That definitely helps linebackers and safeties when that guy can’t sit back there forever.”
“It’s my second year playing college football. You grow up fast,” Edebali said. “You understand much more about the opposing offense and about your own defense. You just grow with every game, it gives you a lot of experience. Especially coming from Germany, where I didn’t really know a lot about football. But I’m learning every game.”
And, occasionally, Edebali’s learning sessions are beamed back home.
“My entire family still lives in Germany,” said Edebali, who’s the only child of a single mother. “The last game, it was quite exciting, the Notre Dame-BC game was broadcast on German television. So I got a couple inboxes [messages].
“My whole old football team from Germany all sat together and had a little Kasim Edebali football party. It was funny to hear about that,” he said.
The kickoff was at 4 p.m. ET, which meant the game aired close to midnight in Germany. But Edebali’s friends and family didn’t mind. “They said it was worth it for Kasim,” he said with a laugh.
Leaving those friends and family in Germany and transitioning to the United states wasn’t easy.
“I had a lot of problems communicating, obviously, but most people really understood my background and tried to help me out,” he said. “My friends still help me out when I say something wrong in English -- ‘Kasim, you gotta say it like this.’ So I’m learning every day, and it’s getting better.”
Edebali said he learned a lot by watching players like Alex Albright and Brad Newman last season.
“The good thing about it is in an environment like this you can just watch and learn,” he said. “On the football field, you don’t necessarily have to understand everything, but you watch the guy doing it in front of you. I learned like that on the football field. ‘OK, they’re doing it like that, I’m gonna do it like that.’ ”
“He’s still raw in a lot of ways,” BC coach Frank Spaziani said. “He hasn’t made as many plays as Newman, the guy he replaced. But he works, he hustles. You can win with him.
“And he’ll probably make some strides next year. You hope. He works hard, he loves it, he’s enthusiastic and you gotta figure that will be positive.”
The slightly undersized 6-foot-2, 248-pounder doesn’t seem daunted by the challenges he continues to face.
“Coach [Jeff Comissiong] always says ‘You’ve gotta play with technique and speed and be physical, and then you can outmatch a lot of people who do not play with technique,’” he said.
While he’s far from a star, Edebali’s proven this season that he’s someone the Eagles can count on. And for a 22-year-old who’s still learning the language, living on his own far from home, that’s a significant accomplishment.
Not to mention an unconventional one.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.