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SUPER SIX SOCCER: Brookwood's Alabi a star on and off the field

The son of Ghanan immigrants, Adrian Alabi can't remember life before soccer.

The Brookwood senior was born in Missouri and has lived nearly his entire life in Gwinnett County, but his roots in the sport were built from his parents' native country. Before he joined his first soccer league, he was introduced to the sport by family.

"In Ghana, there's no other sport but soccer," said Alabi, a Stanford signee. "When you're born, the first gift you get is a soccer ball, so both my parents played. My dad played in college in intramurals. From a young age, soccer was on the TV and I had a soccer ball that we'd kick around."

Kicking a soccer ball around the house wasn't the best idea, though. In its place, Alabi booted a more friendly rubber ball to burn off energy before he was old enough for elementary school.

Even that wasn't always safe, though.

"There's a funny story with that," Alabi said. "I had this rubber ball that I used to just blast it against the wall. It was a formal area, so we had one of those big mirrors. One day I was just blasting it and blasting it and I hit the mirror and it cracked. I had like $60 it was all the money I'd ever saved, and my parents took my money away from me."

The early lesson wasn't the only one he got from his parents. They taught him soccer, then quickly let him know where the sport stood in terms of importance.

Soccer is great, but school comes first.

It's always been that way for Alabi, who ranks second in Brookwood's senior class with a 4.0 GPA, who Broncos head coach Danny Klinect said is one of the top student-athletes he's ever coached.

"He's a leader on and off the field," Klinect said. "The kid's No. 2 in his class and going to Stanford. Those are two pretty big attributes. He's respectful, a model student, a model citizen. That's one of the reasons why he's a captain. He's going to lead by hard work and he's going to set that example."

Alabi hasn't seen a B on his report card since second grade. His current classload includes a Georgia Tech math class that he takes online with a small group of his Brookwood classmates, as well as orchestra, AP chemistry, AP language and AP government/economics.

"(My parents) definitely pushed me to have good grades throughout school," Alabi said. "They knew it would be important in the long run. My parents really put a lot of focus on that, because in soccer you can get injured or something. In education, you can take it where you want it to go."

A balance of both factored into his college decision.

He narrowed his favorites down to Stanford, Northwestern and Maryland, based on their strong soccer programs, but just as importantly, their top-20 ranked engineering programs -- Alabi aspires to be an electrical or biomedical engineer.

As a young child, he dreamed of another path.

"I knew pretty young I wanted to play in college," Alabi said. "I'd always aspired to go pro actually, but it's very difficult to do over here unless you go overseas and I'd have to forfeit my education. So I decided the best way is to play college soccer because you get your education and then if you make it, you can play MLS and then go overseas."

Before he makes an impact at Stanford, Alabi is focused on his final high school season.

An athletic and speedy forward, he has scored 26 goals the past two seasons. Those talents will be important this season to his team's high hopes -- Brookwood enters the season ranked fourth in Class AAAAA and is aiming to break a recent region-title drought.

"We're trying to find him that spot where we can best use his abilities," Klinect said. "We're going to tinker with a two-forward system and we're going to tinker with a three-forward system. Either way, he's a smart enough player to adapt."

Alabi is eager to enjoy the ultimate success as a senior. He hopes the Broncos can win that coveted region title, then make a run at a state championship.

He has memory after memory from high school soccer already, but adding a few more wouldn't hurt.

"Definitely the support and getting to represent Brookwood are the best things (about high school soccer)," Alabi said. "I have all my friends and classmates around. On game days, we dress up and everyone gets really into it. With the club, it's fast-paced and a good level and that kind of thing but you're kind of on your own, you just do it because you love it.

"But Brookwood, it's awesome to have such a supportive atmosphere. I really get a lot of support from my classmates and I like the energy around it."