It was five years ago this month that the UAE Falcons of the Emirates American Football League won their first and only Super Bowl International Division Championship in Orlando, Florida.
"That was one of my best memories of playing football in Dubai and the experience gave me the confidence and ambition to pursue my dream of playing major college football in the United States,” Adam Babb recalled.
Babb was a regular face at the Emirates American Football League, having completed six seasons as a member of the Dubai Stallions as well as representing the UAE Falcons in various international matches.
He is now a member of the Arizona State University (ASU) football team that is set to play against the University of Wisconsin in the Las Vegas Bowl on December 30.
For Babb, who is majoring in Business and Tourism, the game is a bit of a homecoming.
“To have access to several sports and then an introduction to football in Dubai has been a blessing to me, honestly,” he said.
"My father sent me home to Las Vegas for high school because he understood this would be the best opportunity for me to go on to Division 1 college football.
“I thought I had the potential to play at this level when I joined high school. The league I played back in Dubai as a kid gave me the confidence and experience, and the opportunity to travel to the US, China, Singapore, Ukraine and a lot of other places.”
The jump is no small accomplishment for Babb, 18, as only a small group of players with an international background are included on Division 1 college football rosters each year.
There are more than one million high school players in the USA and of those 10,000 - less than one per cent - go on to play division 1 college football. Less than 200 of those 10,000 are from countries outside the US.
“My teammate Peizhang Jackson He became the first Chinese national in NCAA Division 1 college football history to score a touchdown in a game last year,” Babb said.
“ASU is very open and receptive to international origin players and this helped me in my recruitment. I was able to make it to the Division 1 level through hard work and belief in myself which is the spirit I grew up with in Dubai.
“The opportunity to play for coach Herm Edwards at Arizona State University is a dream come true and I am taking full advantage of it.
“Our coaches all originate from the NFL and my special team coach Shawn Slocumb won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers. So I am really getting the best of coaching and development at ASU.
“I love my teammates. They are all very supportive and the campus is amazing. The environment on game day is electric and running on to the field to thousands of cheering fans is such a rush, you can't hope but perform your best for them.”
Babb’s father James, who has been employed in Dubai for the past 16 years and is now a Golden Visa resident, said growing up in a sporting environment in Dubai paid rich dividends.
“For him, the sports environment was exceptional in the UAE,” he said. “He had the opportunity to compete in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, baseball and American football, and travelled internationally to compete in all of those sports successfully.
“It really gave him the confidence he could make the jump to the big stage in the US.”
Babb has lofty ambitions to take his game forward and perhaps, believes he can one day make it to the NFL and play professionally.
“I am focused on the next four years, performing my best for Arizona State. I do not believe I am close to reaching my potential yet,” he added.
“If my performance is proven good enough upon graduation, I would love the opportunity to compete at the NFL level.
“The Las Vegas Raiders are my favourite pro team and I just graduated from high school in Allegiant Stadium six months ago and now I am returning back for the bowl game.
“It could be a sign of things to come. I'll keep working hard and believing good things will continue to happen, as they have so far.”