Although his name brings to mind the sandy plains of Saudi Arabia, Maret High's Talal Al-Sowayel is all American.
Al-Sowayel's father was the Saudi ambassador to the United States until his death in 1977 and his mother now resides in Saudi Arabia. But Al-Sowayel, the youngest of six children, has found his niche in the United States.
"I was born in this country and I frequented Saudi Arabia a lot when I was young," the 5-foot-10, 185-pound running back said. "But now I've adapted to the life style here.
"I don't want to say it's boring over there, but it is hard to go back. My peers there are really different, especially when it comes to what they do on Friday and Saturday nights. I think I'm mild by American standards, but their idea of fun is to get a bunch of guys together and play ping pong. Mine isn't."
Al-Sowayel's aggressive style of rushing is anything but mild. He has gained 379 yards on 56 carries for 4-1 Maret this season, despite sitting out most of last week's 35-0 victory over Riverdale Baptist when he suffered a badly bruised toe. All three of his rushing touchdowns came in a 32-0 win over the Maryland School for the Deaf.
"He's still learning the game," said Gerry Romberg, Maret assistant football coach. "He doesn't have the natural instincts of a Metcalf (O'Connell's all-Met Eric), but he's big and strong. Over the summer, he improved his speed and quickness."
Al-Sowayel dedicated his summer to improving his talents. "The biggest thing in my life recently has been football," he said. "But in our school, if you want to excel, you have to do a lot yourself.
"We don't have good facilities and our weight room is real small, so I lifted weights and ran on my own."
Much of Al-Sowayel's inspiration came from Jimmy Lee Solomon, a cousin of San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Freddie Solomon. Jimmy Lee dated Al-Sowayel's sister, Dina, while a student at Dartmouth. He was signed as a free agent by the Houston Oilers, but opted to attend Harvard Law School and currently is working in the District as an attorney.
"If I ever idolized someone, it was Jimmy Lee," said Al-Sowayel. "He showed me how to sprint faster (Solomon runs a 9.3-second 100-yard dash; Al-Sowayel does it in 10 flat), and he showed me how to pump iron.
"It's one thing we used to argue about. I'd ask him, 'How could you pass up a chance to play in the pros?' If I ever had the chance to do it, I would. Now he sits behind a desk and plays football on the weekends. I know it hurts him to see Freddie catch passes on Sundays."
Al-Sowayel hopes to build a career by combining his American attitude with his Saudi Arabian heritage. "I'd love to stay here and be able to do something with the two countries. I do enjoy seeing my relatives when I go back and I speak Arabic."
Middlebury, Tufts and Brown are among Al-Sowayel's list of prospective colleges. Clearly, he realizes his limitations -- not in the classroom, but on the football field -- and does not wish to mix it up with the Division I powers.
"I'm worried about going to a school where I won't be able to play," he said. "Any college I go to, it will be to learn first, but in terms of football, I look at it realistically. I don't want to go up against linemen who weigh 70 pounds more than I do."
He suspects his mother wouldn't like that, either. "She always asks me why I don't play soccer," he said. "I don't know how many times I've sat down with her and explained four downs and other basic ideas. All she sees is 11 guys trying to stick it to me."