Jim Harbaugh was born in Los Angeles, but raised in the suburbs of Chile. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 1984, and it wasn’t until he was 25 that he moved to the United States to play football. Along with playing quarterback for the Ducks, he also played a lot of basketball and baseball, and he also ran track in college. He was raised in a very athletic family, however, and was on his way to becoming an Olympian at the time when he decided to forgo his collegiate eligibility and move to the U.S. to play football.
This fall, Angulo, a 20 year old lineman from Chile, will be on his way to training camp for the National Football League, the world’s richest and most-watched professional football league.
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ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Learning a new sport at the age of 25 doesn’t seem so daunting after moving alone to a foreign country with NBA dreams at the age of 14, learning the language piecemeal after the school you were attending closed down, and surviving on day-old donuts for two or three days and $50 a month from your parents.
Tight end with the Washington Redskins Sammis Reyes understands how difficult it is to learn football. He’s not afraid of anything.
“I don’t believe I’d have the courage to accomplish what I’m doing without those experiences,” Reyes said. “Nothing compares to what I’ve already gone through. I’ll never back down from a task.”
After seeing Reyes work out at Florida’s pro day, Washington signed him to a three-year contract in April. Washington’s coaches admit that he still has a long way to go before he can play in the NFL. However, they admire his stature (6-foot-7, 240 pounds). As part of the NFL’s International Pathway Program, Reyes has been training at IMG Academy in Florida. They’re well aware that he’s a work in progress.
Washington coach Ron Rivera said, “He’s got a great talent set and the proper kind of mentality to want to try and accomplish it.”
Other NFL tight ends have made the transition from basketball to football, including Antonio Gates (retired), Jimmy Graham (Chicago Bears), and Mo Alie-Cox (Indianapolis Colts), to mention a few. Graham took part as a graduate student at the University of Miami. As a high school student, Reyes played it for a week.
At the age of 14, he moved from Santiago, Chile to Florida to play high school basketball. He played three years of Division I basketball, two of them at Tulane, where he averaged 0.8 points per game in 32 games from 2016 to 2017. He played minimally for one season at Loyola University of New Orleans. Reaching the doorway of an NFL roster, on the other hand, is a triumph. Reyes’ previous experiences on a winding road have helped him prepare for the tough job that awaits him at training camp.
“At 14, no one is ready to leave home,” he remarked. “My narrative turned out to be a good one, and I was able to sort it out, but there were numerous moments when I could have taken a different path.”
‘I was trying not to weep,’ she says.
Reyes’ parents found it difficult to let him go. His father, Daniel, was 16 when he left his home in Chillan, Chile to play basketball in another city approximately 30 years ago. He, too, had gone through a lot, having been reared by his grandparents on a shoestring budget. On October 19, 1995, Daniel Reyes was 21 years old when his son was born.
Sammis Reyes aspired to play in the NBA, but his basketball career at Tulane was short-lived. Getty Images/Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire
“[His life] made him feel at ease,” Sammis said. “‘I made it through this, and so can my kid.”
But it meant saying goodbye to his video gaming friend and their park hoop games on weekends. It meant skipping family vacations.
“It was difficult not having my closest buddy with me,” Daniel stated in a videoconference conversation with ESPN in June via his son.
The most difficult aspect, he claimed, happened at the airport when Sammis first flew to Florida. Daniel said he wanted to portray strength for his kid, but his emotions were at odds.
Daniel said, “I was trying not to weep.”
Sammis would fall down while learning to walk, and Daniel would tell him about it. Sammis was forced to stand up on his own by his father. As Sammis got older, she learned more lessons like these. They bolstered him.
“One of the things that scares me is receiving a call one day saying something bad has occurred to my family,” Sammis added. “But I was unconcerned. I simply sat there sobbing. I was upset since I didn’t know when I’d see my parents or friends again. However, I was prepared.”
Developing the ability to survive
Sammis wasn’t prepared for this: Westlake Prep, in south Florida, had shuttered within three to four months of his arrival. He had been living with another Chilean guy, but he had gone to junior college. Reyes, then 14, was soon the last person to live at the school’s apartment complex, with his former coaches checking up on him every week or so for four to five months. Reyes was on his own, surviving on his parents’ $50 a month, his own street smarts, and, ultimately, the kindness of strangers.
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“I had to figure it out the rest of the time,” he said. “My protein shakes were always purchased from a shop. Then I had to decide out what to eat next. Other times, I was fortunate enough to make a friend and be asked to dinner. I often skipped breakfast, forcing me to rush to the train station and then have lunch. What should I have for lunch if I only have three dollars? It was a day by day process.”
Every few days about 8 p.m., he’d go to a doughnut shop near his apartment and purchase a dozen or more donuts for $1 or a quarter that the owner would have thrown away. The chocolate glazed is his favorite.
“When you have a choice between a dozen doughnuts and a can of beans, you have to choose the donuts. I’d be able to feed myself for the next two to three days “Sammis said. “I’m no longer able to consume doughnuts. I’m not even sure I can see them.”
He spent approximately six months getting used to speaking English. He’d scribble down every phrase he heard, writing it out phonetically. He’d then look up the term in the dictionary to see if he could locate it.
“It was a matter of survival for me,” he said. “You must have the courage to put yourself in circumstances where you must learn fast.”
His parents were completely unaware of his difficulties. They would go months without speaking since he didn’t have a phone or a computer. They’d connect through Facebook or he’d borrow a friend’s phone and purchase a $10 phone card for a 30-minute chat from a petrol station. His parents would use YouTube to watch his games.
Sammis confessed that he hasn’t told his parents about all of the bad things that have happened to him.
After graduating from Tulane, Sammis Reyes, center, was all smiles with his parents, Daniel and Rossana. He didn’t inform them about his difficulties in the United States. “I had to remain silent; I had to suffer in order to shine afterwards,” he said. Sammis Reyes provided the image.
“I wanted to inform them, but I didn’t want to risk losing my opportunity of being here,” he said. “My mother would have called my father and instructed him to come get me. For me, it would have been the end of it. I had to keep my mouth shut; I had to endure in order to shine afterwards.”
“I would have probably done the same thing,” Daniel stated on the video conversation via his kid.
As part of an exchange with the Westlake coaches, Sammis began working with another coach, Roosevelt Gray, before the school closed. Gray worked with a few of their players as a coach. When Gray first saw Sammis, he said to himself, “This man is a football player.” Many people feel the same way when they meet Sammis.
Gray would drive him home after each daily session, stop at McDonald’s, and purchase him $5 worth of food.
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“‘Whoa, five dollars off the dollar menu?’ I exclaimed. That’s incredible!” Sammis remarked.
Gray remarked, “He gulped up the meal.” “He eats hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and fish sandwiches like there’s no tomorrow. It was insane. I couldn’t do it because I couldn’t afford it… I suggested that I go out and get him some food.”
Gray questioned Sammis about his predicament. Gray then utilized his local contacts to assist him get funds for meals, groceries, and even shoes; sometimes it was $50, and other times it was $100. Gray eventually linked Sammis with Steve Rifkind, whose son Alex was Sammis’ age and played on the same AAU team as Sammis. Sammis was accepted to St. Andrews, a residential school in Boca Raton, Florida, thanks to Rifkind’s assistance.
“I moved from the lowest to the finest school,” Reyes said. “I need to become used to dealing with children whose parents are all CEOs. To school, some men drive BMWs and Mercedes. Every day, I dress in the same clothing for school. It was obvious that I didn’t belong in that place.”
Sammis was detained by immigration authorities at Miami International Airport after coming home from Chile as a sophomore — he flew home once a year, frequently paid for by the Rifkinds, so he could play for the national team — as was common. He said that the wait lasted 12 hours since he didn’t have a fixed address while at the boarding school.
Sammis couldn’t reach his ride since he didn’t have a phone. Sammis dashed to the railway station after being freed, jumped the bar with two large bags, and dashed to the platform.
Just when the final train of the night was about to depart.
Sammis went outside, located a Wendy’s with a still-open drive-through, and ordered two burgers on foot. He ate his dinner behind a drugstore, then slept on the ground with two towels and some of his clothing as a cushion. He dozed off.
Sammis said he walked at least 10 kilometers to school on the sidewalk the following day, sweaty and without a shirt on, carrying two bags, before being discovered and picked up by someone who worked in the school’s library.
He laughed as he remarked, “That one was difficult.”
Washington’s coaches are well-versed in tight end play. Sammis Reyes is a work in progress, but his potential excites them. USA Today Sports/Scott Taetsch
Rifkind withdrew his son, Alex, and Sammis from school two days later after speaking with Sammis’ parents, and enrolled them at North Broward Prep. Sammis, who was 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds at the time, moved in with the family and regards Rifkind as a second father and Alex as a brother.
After hearing from instructors in a variety of sports, as well as Steve Rifkind, that he should play football, Sammis decided to give it a try. During the spring of his junior year, he practiced with the North Broward team.
Sammis was playing defensive end in a practice with coaches from Central Florida, Florida Atlantic, and Pitt in attendance. Sammis made a play as a backside end, according to North Broward coach Roland Nottage, by chasing to make a tackle “he was never trained to do… he did stuff on innate intuition.” The college coaches were high-fiving each other, Rifkind remembered.
Sammis informed Rifkind the following day that he no longer wanted to play football. His ambition was to play in the NBA. It resulted in a huge brawl, according to Rifkind, who told Sammis he might be a first-round selection in football. It didn’t make a difference. Sammis was a great basketball player for North Broward, averaging 24.5 points and 13.2 rebounds per game, and he claimed he had 25 Division I offers before choosing Hawaii.
Sammis departed Hawaii when the coach that recruited him was dismissed, sat out a year due to an ACL tear, reappeared at Palm Beach State for a season, and then landed to Tulane still dreaming of the NBA.
“I couldn’t do anything,” Rifkind said.
“I was obsessed with basketball and wanted to play in the NBA,” Sammis stated. “I would have been disappointed if I hadn’t given it my best… But, when it came to athletics, I made a huge error by not listening to counsel when I was younger. I would have been three to four years into the [NFL] and would have a greater understanding of the game.”
Having faith in oneself
After going this far in a foreign nation, Reyes survived because, as virtually everyone around him stated, he trusted himself. It was also tough since he was caught in the between of two worlds: His parents had no prior experience dealing with the problems he encountered in the United States, and those who lived here couldn’t connect to his difficulties.
Alex Rifkind stated, “It certainly took a toll on him at times.” “His father had back issues, his parents were in financial trouble, and the idea that he couldn’t be there was hurting him even after he moved in with us. I was aware that he was homesick. He was still a 16-year-old child, no matter how tall or powerful he was.”
Nicole Kotler, Sammis’ fiancée, whom he met at North Broward, said, “He was able to realize, ‘I can do this; I’ve come this far, what else can stop me?’ by finding things out as he went along and failing at times but also succeeding. And if it does, I can deal with it.’ He is constantly emphasizing the need of taking a new path…. He disliked having to depend on others.”
Sammis was ready for a new challenge when he went into Justin Kavanaugh’s athletic training center in Ashburn, Virginia in January 2020. Reyes persuaded Kavanaugh to coach the Edmunds brothers, Trey (Pittsburgh Steelers running back) and Tremaine (Buffalo Bills linebacker), on the same day he was teaching the Edmunds brothers. Seeing Reyes maintain his improvised exercises throughout the epidemic taught Kavanaugh a lot about him.
“You tell him what you want him to accomplish, and he’ll find out how to get there,” Kavanaugh remarked. “He doesn’t perceive roadblocks; he recognizes that they are a part of life.”
Sammis would go to the gym from 6 a.m. until noon, then bring meals to Door Dash for lunch. He’d go back to the gym for additional work before going home to deliver meals. He’d seen his father, who was formerly a security guard at the US Embassy in Chile and is now an insurance adjustor, work 24- or 36-hour hours for years. After Nicole questions him, Sammis now writes out plays on the three white boards in their flat.
“There aren’t many opportunities where I come from,” Sammis remarked. “There are a lot of drugs, violence, and other things I don’t want to be around. If I had remained in Chile, I may have spent more time among such items. I came here to participate in athletics. A very different way of living.”
It was a strange week in sports with the tragedy in Orlando and the NFL’s decision to suspend or cut players over domestic violence incidents. All this came at a time when the NFL is trying to get its image back to being seen as a family-friendly sport.. Read more about sammis reyes nfl draft projection and let us know what you think.
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