Almir Karasalihovic has always wanted to be like his father.
Irfan Karasalihovic spends much of his time on the road, crossing the country delivering odds and ends behind the wheel of a semi-truck.
So Almir doesn't get a lot of time with his father.
Gone are the days when he can spend hours playing catch or working on his soccer skills with his father.
But when his father comes home, the two become buried in an engine bay getting their hands covered with oil and grease from working on cars.
Those are the times Almir cherishes above all others.
"Just me and him around the car or whatever he was repairing, that was just a great bonding experience," Almir Karasalihovic said.
Being covered in grease with his father is always a fun experience for the future St. Louis University mechanical engineer, but his love of cars didn't come until he got behind the wheels of a sports car.
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And he'll never forget the warbling wail of the engine that so intoxicated him.
"My dad was driving a bright red Nissan GT-R on his trailer one day and he took me over to his trailer and I got to start it and rev it up," Almir Karaslihovic said. "Ever since then, I've fallen in love with them."
His love of cars even takes priority over social events. While friends and other students were worried about what they would wear to the recent prom or where they'd be going afterwards, Almir was more concerned about what he'd drive to the event.
"A lot of the times the conversation has been about what we're wearing, where we're going, but with him, it's about renting a Toyota Supra that he's going to drive to prom," Hancock communications teacher Brian Murphy said. "He's very passionate about that subject."
While being able to hang with his father in an engine bay swapping out spark plugs and transmissions was a great way to bond, Almir saw just how intuitive his father was with the inner workings of engines and that motivated him.
"Seeing my dad being able to take apart whatever out of the car and put it all back together without any problems or help, I wanted to be like that," Almir said. "I want to be just like him."
His father, Irfan learned his passion for cars while he studied to be a mechanic in his home country of Bosnia in 1986. Irfan moved to Germany with his wife Alma and lived there for seven years until he returned to Bosnia briefly before moving to the United States in 2001.
"It was different, everything was so different," Irfan said.
Irfan also remembers other times where he put Almir behind the wheel of super cars while he was young.
"He also got into a Grand Sport Corvette too, he started that one too," Irfan said with a smile.
Almir knows his father is good with cars, but in 21 years of living in the United States, any car that has been owned by Irfan or his family has never had someone else underneath the hood.
"I've lived here, I've never brought my cars to a shop, even for an oil change," Irfan said.
It's no surprise that Almir, who will not play soccer at SLU, was drawn to numbers while pursuing his passion.
"Everything and anything involves numbers," Almir said. "When you want to figure things out or why things do certain things, it comes down to numbers. It all comes back to math. Being able to have that knowledge and to apply it to anything, it's so intriguing."
Almir was so excited to become the first of his family to be headed off to college that as soon as he got the acceptance letter, he made sure everyone knew about it.
"He woke me up at 11 p.m. and told me that he got accepted," Alma said. "I got out of my bed and started to celebrate with him."
So when things get a little too much for the future Billiken, Almir turns to his sport of choice as an escape.
"Playing soccer is like leaving everything in the parking lot and going to be you for an hour," Almir said. "There are no worries, no (drama), none of that. It's you, friends, a ball and just plays that for an hour and a half. That was something I always looked forward."
The laid-back Karasalihovic has plenty of friends around campus
"His demeanor in class, he's just very easy to get along with. He lightens the mood of the room up all the time," Murphy said.
After graduating from SLU, Almir is hoping to find a spot working on the multitude of cars, but his eyes are squarely set on some of the higher-end models such as Ferrari or Mercedes.
"SLU has a Formula 1 team where they build this rally car out of scratch," Almir said. "They go and do these time attacks. People who judge that are representatives from Ford, Volvo, Ferrari and those big names. I'm planning on using that to get my name out there."