NFL Draft 2022 – How George Karlaftis found football between Greece and Indiana

BEFORE 2014 GEORGE KARLAFTISNever had football been on his radar.

Growing up in Athens in Greece, his sporting activities included swimming, tennis and basketball as well as track and field and judo. Karlaftis excelled in these sports when he was young. Karlaftis is a versatile athlete. Karlaftis has a combination of gifts, including size, speed and confidence, that allows him to excel in any sport. Karlaftis eventually moved away from every one of those sports and chose to focus on one that was rarely, if ever, mentioned in his childhood.

“[Football]He recalled that he was perceiving the incident as extremely dangerous and barbaric. “A little bit fear tactics to make us stop playing.”

Matt, Matt's father, is an accomplished Greek athlete who competed at the track and field Olympics. University of MiamiKarlaftis, his brother and two other brothers were unlikely to play football. Matt's first encounter with football was a traumatic head injury that required surgery.

“I was scared. I never really wanted play growing up. [in Greece]Karlaftis stated that it is not an issue.

George's athletic outlook and life were forever changed when Matt died in June 2014. With his mother and siblings, he moved to USA, where he was close to his mother's family. While he was grieving the loss of his father, he also had to adjust to school in a new language and make new friends. He found a way to fit in with his peers through his athletic ability. Karlaftis started playing American football after some hesitation. He became a star defensive player at the University of Texas. Purdue.

He's now at the NFL's doorstep. Karlaftis is likely to be called in the first night of the draft, which will take place in Las Vegas. Mel Kiper Jr. is the DE selected at No. 30In his most recent mock draft.

It's c’est la vie to look back at how things have been. Karlaftis agreed. “It's been quite a journey, all that has happened from when I was twelve years old to now. It's made a huge difference in my life as well as the lives of many others. I had to learn almost immediately how to be a man.


KARLAFTIS HAS SPENTHe spent his high school and college years living in West Lafayette, Indiana. But his roots are still in Greece. He misses his country, his family, the culture, and of course the weather.

“The most beautiful summers,” he declared. It's a completely different atmosphere from anywhere else in the world.

Karlaftis grew up in Athens, with his brother Niko and brothers Yanni. Amy, his mother, spoke English to her children at home. George, however, had a traditional Grecian education from school to sports.

George said, “They wanted us active and to do a lot of different things, find the thing we love and do it at the highest possible level.”

George and his siblings were naturally drawn to sports by their parents.

Their father was a skilled all-around athlete from Greece. He walked onto the Miami track team and competed in javelin. Amy was a high school basketball player and played other sports. However, after breaking her nose in softball she decided not to pursue college athletics. As a freshman at Purdue in 1994, she met Matt while playing volleyball together in the student rec center.

Amy went to Greece to see Matt four years later and never returned. Their family was established in Athens where Matt served as a professor of civil engineering at the National Technical University of Athens. Matt was the author of several books, edited research journals, and received Fulbright scholarships and other awards.

Amy stated, “He was an expert in his field.” Amy stated that he was in charge for all of the bus transportation. [2004]Olympics in China. He knew the exact timing of buses to arrive at the venues to transport the athletes. Although he was considered a dumb athlete as a young man, he was an incredibly gifted individual. So he wanted to instill good sportsmanship and good school performance to his kids.

Amy spent a lot time taking the Karlaftis family to sports. Yanni, who was two years older than George, became a champion in judo for the age group (11) George began to try many things before finally settling for water polo. He was the goalkeeper.

George said, “I carried the entire weight of the team on mine,” George explained. “Everything runs through your body. When the worst happens, I'm the one to save the team. It was a role I really liked.”

George joined the Greek under-16 national team. He could still be the goalkeeper for Greece, currently ranked No. Number 1 in the world.

Matt often traveled for work. In early June 2014, Matt traveled to Kos for a speech at an engineering conference. He never showed up. He died from a heart attack, and was found dead at his hotel.

Amy quickly realized that she couldn't live in Greece with four young kids. Her parents, four siblings, and their families were all back at home in Indiana.

She stated, “I knew within one day.” “I made my decision.”


IN SEPTEMBER 2014 Shane Fry, an eighth-grade physical education teacher in West Lafayette, was about to begin class when a Greek giant measuring 6 feet appeared. George arrived in America just after the school year ended. His father had died and he was still playing water polo in Europe.

George, who was a little shy, had to get coaxed into playing in Fry's whiffle ball class.

Fry explained that Fry was able to convince him to start batting. “He came up and held the bat with one hand, looked like an old man,” Fry said. He smacked the ball where no one could. It was like Mark McGwire hitting a home run with only one arm. He started running with the bat and didn't know where to go or what it meant.

West Lafayette offered new opportunities and challenges. George learned English from his mother, but he didn't use it in school.

George visited his mother's relatives over the years and had many cousins, including R.J. Erb who was George's “built in best friend”. He used sports to adjust to his new environment.

Kaia Harris was George's long-term girlfriend. She met Kaia during his freshman year at West Lafayette High.

George began his career in track and basketball. He was initially hesitant to take up football when the chance presented itself. Matt accepted the offer to play with the Hurricanes' champion football team in Miami. However, during practice, Matt's helmet fell off, and he was left with a broken skull. He required 12-hour surgery that left a noticeable scar.

Amy stated, “They cut him from the one side of his ears to the other and pulled it forward. Then they put plates in.” “His skull had been crushed.”

George was influenced by Matt's story. He knew that his father's family, particularly his grandfather and namedke, would not be thrilled about the idea.

He stated that he had had many conversations with coaches and his family. “The rules, helmets, and equipment of the game have changed tremendously. My friends were doing it and I thought I would be quite good at it. It was like I said, “Yeah, I'll give this a shot.”

George only played eight grade football for two weeks, but he was still interested and asked Fry, West Lafayette High School's head coach, about joining his varsity squad as an freshman. Fry knew George, who was already 6'4″ and 219 lbs, would be able to handle the physical demands. George did not know the game well and had to learn about each position and how to take a stance.

Fry tried George for the first time as a straight toe kicker. An eBay seller sold George a 14.5-inch steel boot that he used to play in West Lafayette's fall games.

Fry said that “he'd transform into ‘The Waterboy'.” He would kick it and run down a field like a psycho, without any regard for his body.

George attended an Indiana University football camp the following summer. At 235 lbs, he was the fastest camper to run the 40-yard dash. He was unable to do one-on-one drills due to injury. IndianaCoach Kevin Wilson approached George and told him that the Hoosiers were very interested in his team.

“I was like, ‘OK, cool.’ George said that he didn't know what it meant.

George received a scholarship offer from IU for a second camp a few weeks later. This scholarship offer was something he didn't understand at all at first. He was already in love with football by his sophomore year. George was 6-5 and 240 lbs. He played more in that season but mostly as a pass rusher in a run-oriented league. He had improved his run defense and was able to recognize misdirection as well as play-action by the playoffs.

The next summer saw more offers, including Notre Dame Alabama. George began his junior year with a frenzy of sacks. He quickly rose to the top of national recruiting boards.

Fry stated, “When Notre Dame offered to him, it was very obvious that he didn't know what Notre Dame meant.” “To him, IU and Notre Dame are college football teams. What is the difference?

ESPN eventually rated George the top prospect from Indiana and the No. The 2019 class included 79 recruits. Because he was so unfamiliar with football and the recruiting process, he approached the attention in a different way.

Amy thanked George for his thorough research on how recruitment works — “He’s got so many of his dad in him,” Amy said — and making certain he attended the correct camps and combines.

Jeff Brohm, Purdue coach, said that he was “just green to the whole thing and how it worked.” “Fortunately, from our side, we got in ahead and offered him. And the more you got to know him, it was an unusual mixture of talent. But, he was also extremely humble, polite, and willing to learn and listen. This is something you don't see with famous men.”

George could have played college football anywhere, but many forces led him to Purdue. He lived about one mile from campus. From West Lafayette High, he could see Ross-Ade Stadium. George would sometimes sneak on Purdue's practice fields with his friends late at night.

Amy's family includes Purdue alumni, and their rental property company is well-known in the area. Brohm was hired in December 2016 and quickly became acquainted with George's family. Jennifer, his wife, is close to Amy. Brady, their son, is the same age and is friends with Annie, George's sister.

George also realized that Purdue would allow him to continue watching over his family.

Greek law says that a father's death will make his oldest son the head of the household. George, who was only two months away from his thirteenth birthday, understood this new reality and owed the states that he do so.

He said, “I had to be a man overnight and the protector of my home overnight.” “This comes with a lot responsibility, but you also have to be mature enough for that.”

George teases Amy about her stepdad's head of the household role, even though she has since remarried.

Amy said, “He's like,” he's like, “I'm still chief of my family.” “It's funny but George really believes it. That was another reason George wanted to stay to go to Purdue. To be close in case. Georgie the little boy grew up in an instant. It's almost tragic to think about, it seems like he lost some of his childhood but it returned when he was able play and do sports.

He committed to Purdue in October 2017.

“He has his pillars: No. 1. is God and 2. is his family. Harris said that 2 is his extended family. Harris said, “I knew that he would never leave his family.” He was 100% going on Purdue.”


GEORGE HAS EVER He struggled to find motivation. In eighth grade, he created an “American Dream” vision board that included logos for both the NFL and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

His high school bedroom wall was covered with quotes, as well as a Purdue whiteboard. Christian Burns, a high-school teammate who was killed in a car crash, often spoke his favorite quotes, “One more” or “Rise. Some other quotes include “They can't find what they don't see,” and George's favorite “Prove them wrong.”

Harris stated that Harris's tagline was “That was kind of his slogan.” He was a water polo player who had never played football before. Everyone laughed at him. Because of the difficulty it is to get into the NFL, they were shocked and said, “Oh no, that's not going happen.”

George graduated highschool early and began college at Purdue in January 2019. He was told by his teammates that he could make it to the NFL after the fourth or fifth practice. George asked Kevin Wolthausen from Purdue to give him the details he needed to be drafted in the first round.

George was the starting quarterback for every game that fall. He led Purdue in tackles for loss (17.5) as well as sacks (7.5). He was a second-team All Big Ten player and a freshman All-American player. He was on the right track.

Mark Hagen was Indiana's defensive coach in 2015. He remembered the Greek camper, a 14-year-old, who impressed staff members with his speed and size. Hagen saw George as a different person when Purdue hired him to be their defensive line coach in January 2021.

Hagen stated, “Everything was dedicated to maximising his full potential.”

Each morning, they received the texts that spring. Hagen was asked by George when they would meet. They watched his practices and video from his sophomore and freshman years. Hagen provided George with projects, including breakdowns for the top pass-rushers of the 2021 NFL draft such as Michigan‘s Kwity PayeMiami's Jaelan Phillips.

George was a different player Hagen had ever coached in terms of his approach to nutrition and training room time. He would then meet Domenic Reno, Purdue strength coach, to do some hand work after team workouts.

Hagen stated that Hagen is “always taking notes in meetings. Always in study mode. Always in that mode of wanting better.” Hagen said, “When you have guys like this, with their incredible work ethic, you're going make the time to help them pursue their dreams.” His every move seemed planned.”

George applied the same approach to football. Harris recalled George in high school as a “goofy” man who lived on steaks and potatoes and pounded pints after pints of cream. Harris was a completely different person when she moved from Air Force to Purdue. She is a thrower on the track team.

Harris stated that Harris described Harris as acting like an 80-year old man. Harris said that he stretches for 30 mins before going to bed at precisely 9 or 9:30 a.m., depending on when he wakes up. He reads 10 pages from the Bible before going to bed and wakes up at this time. [exact]His morning smoothie is made in the morning. He is so organized. He ensures he gets all his carbs and vegetables, and only eats bison, deer, and elk. He was a very active child.

Brohm would often see George at “all hours” since his family home is close to Purdue’s football facility. Brohm borrowed George's laptop for months when he needed it after the coronavirus epidemic hit.

Brohm is a former NFL and XFL football quarterback, who hails from a family of players. He attributes George's approach, which he says, to his brief connection with the sport.

Brohm explained that there's not much burnout since he didn't grow-up playing football and living it. He was an active, athletic teenager who did many different things. He is eager to show the world how great he is because of this, shoot. While I am sure there are many other good picks in round one, this is my favorite. He is a veteran All-Pro who has been playing for 10+ years.

George believes that he would approach any sport the same way. He said, “That is who I am, and that's what my faith in.” However, he knows that his football journey has just begun.

He said, “My best football lies ahead of me.” “Without a single doubt, I know that. I believe that I should be No. 1 [overall] pick. It doesn't matter whether the teams feel this way on Twitter, Instagram or ESPN. That's how I feel.

George played in all 12 regular season games last fall despite being injured and having to miss three games due to the pandemic. He led Purdue in tackles (11), forced fumbles (33) and sacks (5), despite often playing on double-teams. He was named first-team All-Big Ten and helped Purdue reach its highest win total (99) since 2003.

George said in December that he would not be finishing his last season to go into the draft. Brohm believes George will be an elite power rusher for the NFL. He will likely play strong-side end and will use speed and moves to get into the pocket.

Brohm said, “He is a man who can play all the downs.”

Hagen stated that George is strong as a big man and can pass rush well. George found it enjoyable to be able show that he's more than a large, physically fit guy. George did manage a 38-inch vertical jump at the NFL combine and a leap of more than 10 feet at the NFL combine.

“[Whoever drafts him is]Hagen explained that it is important to find a man who is versatile and can play on either the edge or inside. This will allow you to get the best pass rushers and also create mismatches with some of the guards and centers who aren't as athletic as the outside tackles.

George considered football when he was just beginning to think about it. He knew that his grandfather in Greece would be worried after what happened to Matt. After hearing that George could receive an athletic scholarship to college, George's grandfather was open to the idea. George and George's uncle saw Purdue highlights and George hopes that they can attend one of his NFL games.

American football has taken the Karlaftises to America. YanniPurdue's second year linebacker, Niko, who is 14 years old, plays the game.

George was asked what his father would think about him now. He recalled that Matt used to tell stories about academically-minded men, just like he did, and how they would both thrive in athletics. Matt was a good listener, but ultimately let George take the decisions. George would be his support.

George stated that George would be so proud to have him play football. “I graduated college in three year and am now a professional athlete. It would be his dream come true.

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