Karlaftis and Ebiketie Add International Flavor to NFL Combine – 95.5 WSB
INDIANAPOLIS — (AP) — George Karlaftis and Arnold Ebiketie made similar trips to this week’s NFL scouting combine.
Both excelled in other sports before trying football. Both have emerged as star defensive goals in the Big Ten. And when each moved to America at age 13, neither knew much about the sport — or the career path — that would change their lives.
About a decade later, Karlaftis and Ebiketie are both in Indianapolis, showing everyone that kids everywhere can still achieve their dreams in America.
“I didn’t know anything about the game – what a first down was, how to get into position or how to spiral,” said Karlaftis, who grew up in Greece. “I had to trust my instincts. It took me about a year to figure it out, but I could see that I was physically dominating my friends on the pitch, so I thought I’d give it a try.
Purdue couldn’t have been happier with the results. Penn State was also thrilled when it got Ebiketie for its final college season after the Cameroon native started at Temple.
And with the draft approaching, Karlaftis and Ebiketie are quickly emerging as something bigger than just potential first-round picks. They are among the faces of the NFL’s growing global reach.
In recent combines, the list of participants has been dotted with athletes from all over the world. But this year’s class may be bigger, more talented, and span more of the globe.
Central Michigan offensive lineman Bernhard Raimann arrived in the United States from Austria after completing a mandatory 6-month military stint. Former Penn State linebacker Jesse Luketa grew up in Canada and hulking offensive lineman Daniel Faalele was first discovered at a satellite football camp in Australia before attending Minnesota.
Defensive end/linebacker David Ojabo was born in Nigeria and lived in Scotland before landing at Blair Academy in New Jersey and eventually Michigan.
Then there’s John Metchie III, the Alabama wide receiver who was born in Taiwan, moved to Ghana and later Canada before honing his football skills at a high school in Maryland. The experiences have taught Metchie and others lessons that go beyond football.
“I think culture is one of the biggest keys to who I am today,” Metchie said. “Just having lived with so many different people and so many different cultures has definitely helped me become the man I am today.”
The transition from a purely American game to one with foreign connections did not happen by chance. League officials hatched a plan long ago that included playing regular-season games in London and Mexico City. Munich joins the International Series this fall and Tokyo hosted pre-season games.
Now comes the reward.
Some fictional drafts list Metchie, Ojabo and Raimann – as well as Ebiketie and Karlaftis – as first-round hopefuls. Faalele, who was 6-foot-8 and 384 pounds, and Luketa are likely second-day picks.
Also don’t expect the international train to stop soon. Metchie’s Ottawa teammate Luketa hopes to join Los Angeles Chargers receiver Josh Palmer and Carolina running back Chuba Hubbard as fellow Canadians on NFL rosters. Others, he thinks, are on the way.
“We are everywhere,” Luketa said. “The talent in Canada is untapped. Being able to be in that position and shine that light at home is everything. It’s so much bigger than us. There is so much talent in Canada, but we don’t give them the same opportunity.
It may be because not everyone follows the traditional journey.
Ojabo, for example, played soccer and basketball before trying soccer. Raimann participated in football until he was 14 years old. Karlaftis was such a strong water polo player that he made the Greek national team and stayed on to finish the season before leaving for West Lafayette, Indiana to reunite with his family after the sudden death of his father. .
And after Ebiketie’s father was posted to the country’s US Embassy, the 6-foot-2, 250-pound pass thrower played basketball and competed in sprints and high jumping before becoming a top football player.
Everyone now has a chance to expose others to the sport they’ve embraced by taking one step further in their surprising journeys.
“The first time I tried football was my second year of high school,” Ebiketie said. “I was a natural athlete so it wasn’t a problem. The most important thing was learning the rules and once I learned the rules everything took care of itself.
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