Former Texas Tech cornerback Khalid Naziruddin finished his career as a team captain in 2005, but it wasn’t an easy road to the top of that mountain for a player that rode the pine until his final year of high school.
“It was a huge challenge,” Naziruddin said. “Nobody really wanted me out of high school. I actually rode the bench my junior year of high school. I played one down all year.”
Naziruddin got a boost of confidence as a high school senior when he made the transition from running back to free safety for Spring Westfield and earned all-district honors, but after the season ended, adversity once again stared him in the face.
His best opportunity to continue pursuing his dream was at Howard Payne, a Division III school in Brownwood, so he took it.
“As a kid out of high school, everybody wants to go D-I and go on to the NFL,” Naziruddin said. “Playing at Howard Payne, I wanted bigger things. I could have stayed for four years, and a lot of people told me to stay there. They said I was doing good. I made all-conference my freshman year.”
Standing out at the Division III level against better competition than he faced in high school helped Naziruddin realize that he could, once again, play at a higher level.
“Really, nobody recruited me away from Howard Payne. It was all on my own,” Naziruddin said. “The only school that actually accepted me at Division I was Texas Tech. I had spent two years at Howard Payne, got my time in and became a student of the game, then I decided to walk on at Texas Tech.”
Naziruddin enrolled at Tech in the spring of 2004 and had bigger dreams than simply just earning a roster spot. Like every step of the way up until that point, the odds were stacked against the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder.
“Nobody knew my name,” he said. “When that opportunity comes, you’ve got to make a name for yourself and do extra. I kind of just kept to myself and got things done on my own. Not a lot of people want to take you in under their wing when you’re gunning for their position, so I would just look, watch and learn what the upperclassmen were doing and do extra.
“You have to be strong mentally because you face a lot of battles, like ‘Should I go on and quit?’ I knew 10 years later that quitting would be a big regret, so instead of letting it get the best of me I kept working. The coaches saw this kid willing to work, and coaches love it when a player is willing to work.”
The results would follow not far behind as Naziruddin became the strongest player in the secondary, with a 375-pound bench press and a 565-pound squat.
“I was about 180 pounds soaking wet,” Naziruddin said. “So for my body weight, it was pretty decent.
“Adversity is a just a hurdle that you have to step over. In ’04 I earned a starting position and a scholarship in the same week. It shows you that hard work pays off. You just have to stick to your guns.”
In less than one year’s time, Naziruddin went from a no-name walk-on to co-leading the team in tackles with 83. He also added 2½ tackles for losses, 1½ sacks, four pass breakups, a fumble recovery and three quarterback hurries for an 8-4 team in 2004.
“Whether we were ranked or whether we weren’t, I stayed focused away from all that stuff and just stayed focus on what game was next and that was it,” Naziruddin said.
That 2004 team upset then-No. 4 ranked California in the Holiday Bowl, and Naziruddin had a career-high 11 tackles. Some of his best memories in the scarlet and black came in the following year, though.
Two memorable games were Tech’s 34-31 win at Nebraska and a 52-17 loss at No. 2 Texas that stopped the Red Raiders’ 6-0 start.
“The game in Nebraska when were played them in 2005 was a nail-biter,” Naziruddin said. “We barely won in the last few seconds. I intercepted a 15-yard out route, diving on the sidelines. If I could relive one, that’s one I would definitely want to relive. That, and picking off Vince Young in the Texas game.”
Naziruddin finished the 2005 season with 66 tackles, one tackle for loss, those two interceptions, five pass deflections and a fumble recovery.
Even though his playing days are behind him, you couldn’t look at him and tell. It’s quite possible that Naziruddin is in even better shape now, as a body builder, than he was eight years ago.
“I enjoyed the weight room, still do to this day,” he said. “It’s a part of me. When something is a part of you, it sticks with you. It’s tough on the body and tough on you mentally, but it makes you get better and makes you stronger.”
Naziruddin, a Lubbock resident, placed second in men’s physique at the Dorian Yates Classic, third at the West Texas Classic, third at a Ronnie Coleman show and 12th in Class D at the Junior USA competition.
“At nationals, you go and compete in a national show and you can get your pro card and be a professional in the sport,” Naziruddin said. “If I could get a magazine deal, that would be great. Right now I’m taking a breather until next year.”
To set himself apart in bodybuilding, he practically has to watch his every bite and count his every step and every rep. But, if his football story is any indication, his competitiveness could keep boosting him forward.
“When it comes down to it, it’s really a science at competing,” Naziruddin said. “You really have to know your body and how much cardio to do so you can get leaned up and get ripped.
“You diet for so long and train for so long, and you walk across the stage and it’s maybe seven seconds,” Naziruddin said. “You do three months of work for seven seconds, so you’ve got to look good. There are a lot of people doing the same thing, so you have to set yourself apart.”
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