Until now there has not been any Albanian in the National Football League but thanks to Seahawks, we can gladly say there is one now. On May 2nd the American football team Seattle Seahawks announced that they had picked Albanian born Kristjan Sokoli as their second choice in the sixth NFL draft round. This means that for the first time ever I can use the words Albanian and NFL in the same sentence.
Sokoli was born in northern Albania, well Shkodër to be exact. A city that has raised several famous soccer players, such as Hamdi Salihi, Bekim Balaj, Armando Vajushi, Elseid Hysaj and so on. Sokoli actually followed the same path as these group of men and started playing this sport.
Growing up was not easy, due to political reasons his father had to flee the country when Sokoli was only five. Father Gjon moved to America, two years later his mother left as well and when Sokoli was nine him and his brother joined their parents on the other side of the Atlantic. Three years later they became American citizens.
Despite becoming ‘Americans’ he is proud of his Albanian heritage. The Albanian flag hangs on his walls, Albanian music pours out of his speakers and when his parents calls he answers in Albanian.
Around that time his cousin/mentor convinced Sokoli to switch path and play American football. While attenting Bloomfield High School, New Jersey he started playing football instead against his parents will. They were not happy with him playing this rough sports but his passion for the sports was too big for anyone to stop him.
When it was time for college the defensive lineman got a scholarship with Buffalo College in New York so that he could play football as well as working on his Business Administration degree.
“I’m like, ‘What am I doing here? Some Albanian guy?’ I was in Albania, now I’m playing in front of 20,000 fans in Buffalo, New York in college football.” – Sokoli in an interview with ubspectrum.com.
For the NFL 2015 draft it was announced that Sokoli would have to leave the east coast and move to Seattle to join the 2013 Super Bowl champions. Despite being rather unknown to the American crowd this rookie is hard to miss as he is 1,96 meter tall and weighs about 136 kilograms. I doubt that any man would want to get tackled by this Albanian beast.
“He’s a hard-nosed football player and he’s real smart too.” – Seahawks coach Pete Carroll to ESPN.
Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable have already made plans for the 23-year-old as they want him to play center offense instead of defenseive lineman like he played in college. This has caught media’s attention wondering how he might do so but Cable has done it once and succeeded. Oh and with Sokoli’s soccer background he can also play as a kicker. We’ll just have to wait and see where Seahawks will put Sokoli during the fall when the season starts.
“It’s about making myself proud, but also my inner family proud and also all of the Albanians proud. ” – He says to Seahawks website.
Mr. Sokoli, we are all very proud of you. Now go out there and show America that Albanians can play football too!