Leander High School football team honors fallen APD officer Abdul-Khaliq
Every day, the Leander High School football team hits the field for practice before dawn. Among them is a teen who just lost the most important man in his life.
"He was definitely my role model." Mati Abdul-Khaliq is a senior defensive back for the Leander Lions. He said his father, Amir Abdul-Khaliq who was an Austin police officer for 17 years, made him the young man he is today.
"He always instilled in us to not ever leave the house without making sure that you hold standard to our name, so I make sure I keep that standard to this day," said Mati.
When his father was killed in a funeral procession two weeks ago, you would understand if Mati sat out a game or a practice.
"He's a tough kid and he's got a positive attitude and he's been kind of a leader too, so we're real proud of him," said Leander HS Football Coach Tim Smith
But Mati never skipped a beat.
"I don't know a lot of kids that could do that, even adults that could do that in the NFL," said teammate Malcolm Wright-Harris.
He did it with the help of his teammates -- or as he calls them, his family.
"We're a brotherhood," said Abdul-Khaliq. "We're all there for each other and we're going to treat each other like family."
"Not only did the kids rally around Mati, but the community did. The Austin PD, Leander PD, Cedar Park PD," said Coach Smith. "I had more phone calls from every school in our district saying what can we do to help."
It was only fitting that at the game versus Westwood, Mati recovered a key fumble that led the Lions to victory.
"I know his dad was on our side, that's why we won. He was above watching his son play," said teammate Johnathan Spires.
The team now wears Officer Amir Abdul-Khaliq's initials on their helmets along with his badge number: 4025.
"That just shows the impact my father had on everyone," said Mati. "So I feel pretty blessed for the opportunity to have them do that."
Mati said he had no idea how much his father meant to so many people, but he definitely knows how much he means to his brothers.