On Sunday, February 12, Greek-born American football defensive end George Karlaftis will play for the first time in the NFL Super Bowl.
The match is set to take place at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, between American Football Conference (AFC) champion Kansas City Chiefs and the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Philadelphia Eagles.
Karlaftis, who only just started playing for the Kansas City Chiefs last year, will have his first shot at the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy.
George Karlaftis, a promising new talent
In just under a year, George Karlaftis has gone from the 30th pick of the NFL Draft to a starter on a team now bound for the Super Bowl. So far, it has been a whirlwind journey for the 21-year-old Athenian from college football to the forefront of the sport at the Super Bowl.
Reflecting on this incredible journey and the moment he was picked by the Kansas City Chiefs last year, Karlaftis said “It seems like forever ago, but at the same time it feels like it was yesterday.”
“This past year or nine months, or however long it is, has been crazy,” he added. “It’s a blessing to just be in this position to have an opportunity to become Super Bowl champions.”
The big game on Sunday is expected to be close, with the Chiefs as slight underdogs. Leading up to the Super Bowl, both teams were able to secure identical 16-3 winning records.
Early life and exposure to American football
A sporting tradition runs in the family of George Karlaftis. His father, Μathiós, or “Matthew”, a javelin thrower, was a star athlete in track and field at the University of Miami. His father, while attending graduate school, met his mother Amy at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.
“My mom was big into sports, my dad was huge into sports, that rubbed off onto me and all my siblings,” George Karlaftis recalled in a short video documentary released last year.
George’s parents returned to Athens where his father became a professor. George was born on April 3, 2001, and is one of four children. Everything changed, however, when their father died of a heart attack while traveling for work at age forty-four. Within days, their mother, Amy, moved the children back to Indiana, where she had more support.
It was in Indiana that George, who played many sports in Greece, fell in love with American football. In Greece, he excelled in swimming, track and field, water polo, basketball, and soccer. Whilst attending West Lafayette High School, George continued to excel at track and field, particularly at the shot put in track and field but it was during this time he was also introduced to American football.
George was enrolled in the West Lafayette High School American football team and concluded his high school career with 41 sacks. He also had the opportunity to play in the 2019 US Army All-American Game, where he was named the Defensive Player of the Year.
He graduated from high school early and enrolled at Purdue University in January 2019. During his freshman year, he started all 12 games, recording 54 tackles and 7.5 sacks. However, in the following year, he caught COVID and was only able to play three games as a sophomore.
George Karlaftis declared for the 2022 NFL Draft following the 2021 season and was picked to play for the Chiefs in 2022.