Today was a historic day in the sport of football for the National Football League. The first openly-gay player— Michael Sam – was drafted in the seventh-round of the 2014 NFL Draft Saturday afternoon. But another iconic moment happened today, and it related directly to my natural roots. On Saturday, I randomly glanced at my Twitter timeline only to discover that for the first time, an Eritrean football player was drafted.
Natneal Berhe (mostly known as “Nat”) is a safety measured at 5-foot-10, 193 pounds from San Diego State University, and was drafted by the New York Giants in the sixth-round at pick 152. While playing for the Aztec’s, Berhe recorded 94 tackles as a junior, and 99 as a senior. He also was a team captain and played the team’s “Aztec” position (safety-hybrid). From the tape I’ve been able to watch of him, he’s flies around the ball and has good football instincts, along with leadership obviously. On the downside, he lacks the ideal frame for the position, being considered a cornerback in a safety's body. (Maybe he needs to eat more injera?)
Berhe isn’t the only professional athlete to participate in the three major sports here in the U.S. (NBA, NFL, MLB). In 2009, Thomas Kelati signed a 10-day contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. Kelati was cut, but now plays overseas in the Euroleague for Laboral Kutxa Vitoria.
Nat Berhe is a trailblazer. This weekend he set a positive example to any habesha person (a person that is Eritrean or Ethiopian) by proving that you can succeed in a field your culture isn’t normally accustomed to, or prefers. Looking away from his on-field accolades, Berhe also performed well in the classroom by obtaining his bachelor's degree.
Now his NFL journey begins, and many will pay close attention to his progress as he picks up many new "cousins" along the way.
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