Kansas City Chiefs defensive end George Karlaftis, left, works with defensive end Frank Clark, right, during NFL football training camp Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, in St. Joseph, MO. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
GLENDALE, AZ – As the Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl LVII on February 12, the team’s rookie defensive end George Karlaftis also made history, becoming the first Greek-born NFL player to win a Super Bowl.
Karlaftis, who was born in Athens, played at Purdue, where he was all-Big Ten, after having been a multi-sport star in his homeland, including playing water polo for the Greek national team. Karlaftis’ family moved to the United States when he was 13, after his father died suddenly of a heart attack on the island of Kos where he was to deliver a speech at an engineering conference in 2014, To Vima reported. Mathios ‘Matthew’ Karlaftis was a civil engineer and all-around athlete in Greece.
“We moved to be closer to my mom’s family and the support system that exists over here. It was probably something that was going to happen either way because there are more opportunities here. Life is a little easier in Indiana than in a big city like Athens,” he old The Mirror during the week leading up to the Super Bowl.
In a press conference before the big game, Karlaftis told reporters: “It’s a blessing to just be in this position with an opportunity to become a Super Bowl champion.”
When asked what it means for Greece, Karlaftis said: “There’s been a couple of articles out and my family, especially my grandpa is super, super proud and my uncle and cousins… I hope I’m inspiring kids back home to just follow their dreams, not necessarily to follow my steps in football, but just in anything.”
He noted that the game would be played in the early morning hours in Greece and “it’s not huge there, I hope to change that in some regard, I know my family and friends will be watching, and hopefully some other people.”
Karlaftis, a first round pick in the NFL draft, was third among rookies in sacks this season with 7.
Karlaftis told Gridiron in a video available on Twitter: https://bit.ly/3YqsKEg, that he “didn’t know anything about it” when he first started playing football. “It was really different than anything I grew up doing. It’s just a fun ride… trying to get better every single day. It’s been amazing.”
When asked his team, Karlaftis said: “Panathinaikos always, all day. Gate 13 man, come on now. My first outfit I was ever born in, Panathinaikos. Green and white, man.”
Of food he misses, he said: “Paidakia, that’s my absolute favorite, like lamb chops, but you know you can get lamb chops here, but nothing beats, to me at least, the fish in Greece.”
When asked what it would mean to win the Super Bowl, he told Gridiron: “It’s immense, your legacy as an individual… to say you’re a Super Bowl champion is immense, the legacy of this team, it’s something that inspires so many people, and brings hope not just to people back in Greece, people all over the country.”
The Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles in a tight game 38-35 as the Chiefs won their second NFL title in four years with quarterback Patrick Mahomes, two-time NFL MVP, taking home a second Super Bowl MVP award as well, in spite of playing with an injured ankle. He also made history, as he became the first quarterback with two Super Bowl titles and as many MVP titles, before turning 30 years old. Previous athletes who had achieved a similar feat were: Peyton Manning, Joe Montana, Tom Brady, and Johnny Unitas.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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