Every offensive football play begins with the snap of a ball. It is often overlooked by many since most everyone only cares about what happens after the ball is snapped. Offensive lineman don’t get the love like quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers do- but that doesn’t mean Shepherd center Hussam Ouri is not an integral part of the offense.
From the moment when the ball is exchanged between center and
quarterback to when the center has to pop back up and confront the
defense, there is a lot that comes Ouri’s way. It’s all about timing,
technique and adjustments. He’s used to adjustments.
Hussam was born in Brazil and lived there to the age of six. Then his
parents, Adib and Iraquia decided to move the family to the United
“It was a tough adjustment. I was fluent in Portugese and it took me a
year and a half to learn English. Even then, I still didn’t completely
understand all the slang that is used. I had completed first grade and
had to re-do it when I got to the States,” said Hussam.
Adib and Iraquia met through working together in Brazil and were thinking big picture when it came to the move.
“They knew there was more opportunity here for me and my brother. I didn’t see it that way at first, but now I do.”
Nowadays the two work together in a convenient store and deli and
are co-owners in their other son’s steam cleaning business. It’s that
undying work ethic that helps motivate and inspire Hussam.
“Their will to support and provide for me and my brother is
something I do not take for granted. They are my role models and I
appreciate everything they have ever done for me.”
Growing up, Ouri enjoyed playing basketball and watching it. He’s a 76ers fan and became mesmerized by the dazzling play
of former guard Allen Iverson. It was around the same time the Dallas
Cowboys were THE team to beat in the NFL, and the young kid from Brazil
couldn’t help but become enamored with them.
“My mom’s friend who helped us adjust to the culture shock was a big
Cowboys fan. She had jerseys and plaques and everything. It rubbed off
on me. I loved watching Emmitt Smith take over the game.”
Hussam’s earliest memories from actually watching games was when the
Rams faced the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000. While he
enjoyed watching football, he didn’t begin playing until his freshman
year in high school at Broadneck.
“I played basketball before that and loved it. With football, I had
no idea what to expect. I struggled at first because the conditioning
was very hard. My coach, Rob Harris, always told me I could be really
good if I could stay on the field and not tire out so quickly.”
His experience at Broadneck was very diverse. Along with playing
defensive tackle, defensive end, backup right tackle, right guard and
center, Hussam played multiple sports in the offseason such as track and
shot put and discus.
“It gave me something to do in the winter and spring and kept me in
shape. It helped me become better in football- more conditioned and
The sudden realization at his own potential prompted Ouri to go to
numerous combines and football camps. During the summer from his junior
into senior year at Broadneck saw his life outside the game diminish due
to his busy schedule.
“My personal life was essentially non-existent. I did about eight or nine combines that summer,” Hussam said.
During his senior season, he started at both center and defensive end.
“I loved defense and just being on the field at all times. But after
games, I just wanted to die because I was so tired and exhausted. It
was all worth it, though.”
The double duty paid off. The Naval Academy offered him a full
scholarship, while Division 1-AA schools such as Delaware, New Hampshire
and Towson all offered partial scholarships.
One of Ouri’s teammates at Broadneck was Va’a Niumatalolo.
Niumatalolo now plays for Brigham Young University. His father, Ken, is
the coach of the Naval Academy football team.
“The offer was a result of the work I put in, but my final decision
was a last minute thing. I never knew where I wanted to go because
during the recruiting process there are so many lies that it’s hard to
find the truth.”
Hussam only visited Shepherd once, but the first time was the charm.
He met with the coaches and they made him an offer. The stress-free
nature of it was a huge plus for him.
“To play football on a scholarship here as well as be close to home
and be part of a winning program all made the decision that much
easier,” he said.
After his work on both offense and defense at Broadneck, the
transition to being at Shepherd and being a full-time center was not
“In college, you are limited with how much time you can practice.
Scheduling and organizing everything is key to doing well. I did not do
that at first. I would procrastinate a lot and before I knew it, it was
eleven o’clock at night and I hadn’t started my homework yet.”
On the field, Hussam credits coaches Ernie McCook and Jeremy Overfelt with his positive strides as a player.
“I learned about technique and form from Coach McCook. From Coach
Overfelt I learned how to get stronger while still being agile. He runs
and lifts with us and I really respect him for it because he puts in
Outside of his hectic football schedule, Ouri enjoys playing pick-up
basketball, paintball, listening to music, grilling outside, video
games, watching Netflix and messing around with computers. If you give
him a new piece of technology, Hussam will be all over it and master it
if given the time. He even has been known to build computers, too.
During the offseason conditioning, all of these activities come in
second to one: sleep.
“There’s a two week period during winter conditioning where we run
so much and it really wears you down. You probably won’t see me on
campus much because I try and rest up as much as possible afterwards.”
It takes a lot of desire and self motivation to keep at it, whether
it is academics or school. Ouri admits former NFL cornerback Eric Thomas
is one source of motivation for him. Thomas wrote a book titled The Secret to Success. In
it you see the transformation from homeless high school dropout to his
rise as a husband, father, CEO, educator and motivational speaker.
During Hussam’s freshman season, the Rams won the WVIAC Championship
and were one of the final four teams left in the playoffs, losing to
Delta State. Back then he was just a practice squad player. After
winning the WVIAC again this past season, it takes on a whole new
feeling since he was on the field for it.
“It was great because it showed our hard work from the dog days of the summer in August until that point,” he said.
This season the team moves to the brand new Mountain East Conference. With the move comes goals.
“I want us to win the conference championship again and get to the
playoffs again and go deeper. I want to finish up my academics strong so
I don’t have to worry about that part while also improving as a
The evolution from young practice squad player to established veteran is not lost on the young man from Annapolis.
“Being one of the veterans on the team means having a good work ethic
and not being afraid to get in someone’s face if they mess up. I like
to watch them improve, too. It feels like just yesterday I was just
finding my way at Shepherd. Now that I’m at this point, I like being a
Being a leader means helping the morale of the team stay positive at
all times and part of that is the chemistry of a team and how they get
along. With the Rams, there aren’t any chemistry issues as all the
players, regardless of position, hang out with each other.
“You’ll see running backs hanging with kickers, and quarterbacks with
defensive lineman. We just get along and we aren’t clique-ish.”
Hussam is studying Fitness and Exercise Science, and is specifically
looking into sports medicine as a career in physical therapy. He’s not
totally sure of what path life will take him down, but like he has
before on and off the field, I have a feeling he’ll make the transition
in anything he does just fine.