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Old 12-12-2007, 07:03 PM   #1
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Default 5 Canadian UCONN Football Players

While at work last weekend, I ran into 2 players from the 2007 University of Connecticut football team. Nice kids!! I call them "the Alexes"..Alex #94 and Alex #54!! We chatted for a bit and I got their autographs too (on Estee Lauder XMas wrapping paper!! lol).

The Alexes love being on the team and appreciate the opportunity to travel (Christmas, they'll be in North Carolina for the Meinike Car Care Bowl). They also told me of the many international teammates this season and...5 are from Canada! So I wanted to pass this article along:

It's A Small World After All For UConn Football

UConn's international football players:
L-R: Shawn Mayne (Montreal, Que.), O'Neil Wilson (Scarborough, Ont.), Conn Davis (St. Thomas, V.I.), Aloys Manga (Duana, Cameroon), Recruiting Coordinator Lyndon Johnson, Adam Coles (Gladesville, Australia), Jason Ward (St. Hippolyte, Que.), Hakeem Kashama (Brampton, Ont.) and Dan Desriveaux (Laval, Que.).

Football is an American game. Other sports in the United States, especially on the professional level, have developed an international flavor, but football remains a game primarily with players from the 50 United States.

At UConn, and many other colleges across America, that is starting to change somewhat. This year’s edition of the Huskies had eight players with roots outside of the United States.

UConn had five players from Canada – with two from Ontario (junior defensive end Hakeem Kashama of Brampton and junior wide receiver O’Neil Wilson of Scarborough) and three from Quebec (freshman wide receiver Dan Desriveaux of Laval, freshman linebacker Shawn Mayne of Montreal and freshman defensive end Jason Ward of St. Hippolyte).

The Huskies also featured junior punter Adam Coles, a native of Gladesville, Australia, and freshman offensive tackle Aloys Manga of Duana, Cameroon. Freshman wide receiver Conn Davis is from St. Thomas of the Virgin Islands – a territory of the United States.

“As we continue to build a Division I-A football program here at UConn, it’s important for us to look at every option,” says Husky head coach Randy Edsall. “More and more schools in the United States are looking at players from different countries, especially in Canada. The foreign players may not get a lot of attention, but there is some talent out there.”

The foreigner that made the biggest impact on the Husky team this year was Coles. He came to UConn with experience as an Australian Rules Football player and is making a name for himself as a Husky as well. He is presently UConn’s all-time leader in career punting yardage with 8,469 while ranking second all-time in punting average at 39.8 and third in total punts with 213.

Australian Rules Football players first got attention in the United States when Darren Bennett, a native of Sydney, made the San Diego Charges as a punter and then earned a spot in the 1995 Pro Bowl. He continues to punt for the Chargers this season.

“When Darren had success in the NFL, scouts from American football started to come to Australia to look at players that could punt the ball,” says Coles, who admits his only exposure to football in childhood was through video games. “They ran a competition and I came in second. That’s when I first knew I could punt at the American college level.”

Coles is enjoying his time here in the United States and playing for the Huskies.

“It’s great at UConn and I love it over here in the United States,” says Coles. “It’s not much different than Australia apart from the weather. The weather is a lot different than the weather in Sydney. That’s the biggest difference. When I go home for Christmas it’s ridiculously hot and then I come back to the freezing again.”

Coles was named to the preseason watch list for the Ray Guy Award – which is given to the top punter in college football each year. He used his Australian Rules Football background in the game at Miami when a snap went well over his head. He has to back peddle and did get off a punt, right before he was flattened by a Miami defender. Although the punt was officially registered at just 24 yards, the boot was well over 50.

“My Australian Rules Football background was very helpful on that play,” says Coles. “I saw the Miami player coming at me. In Australia, what I did was called a ‘snap kick.’ It’s when you kick it around your body.”

Manga’s route to UConn started in Cameroon and went to The Master’s School in Simsbury before landing in Storrs.

“There is a great opportunity that you have here in the United States,” says Manga, who cousin Charles played basketball for Seton Hall in the mid-1990s. “If you play sports well, you can get a college scholarship to get a good education and be successful in your life. Plus, the people in the United State are very friendly.”

Manga went to The Master’s School and was a member of the basketball and lacrosse teams there. He was advised because of his 6-7, 296-pound frame that football may just be the game for him.

“I started to pick up American football back home by watching it on television,” says Manga. “When the Super Bowl game is played, the show it back home.”

The first sports Manga played were soccer and volleyball, but he also has an extensive background in judo.

“Judo was really my first sport,” says Manga, who looks to redshirt this year at UConn. “My father won the championship of Cameroon in judo.”

Kashama has truly lived an international life. He was born in the African country of Zaire and moved to Canada with his parents in his childhood.

“I didn’t think a lot about football growing up because nobody played football in Africa,” says Kashama, who played high school football at Bramalea High School. “When my family moved to the Toronto area, the football coach there asked my buddies and I to start playing. We like the game with all its hitting.

“After we were playing for two years, college coaches started to notice us. I didn’t even know you could get a scholarship for college by playing football. We had seven kids in my family so it was an opportunity to help my parents out by not asking them to spend too much money for me to go to college. I stuck with the game through high school and got a scholarship.”

Kashama was limited to playing in just two games in 2001 with an injury, but has come back to see action in all six contests this year and has made nine tackles, including three in the win at Buffalo.

Although it is a popular destination for tourist, the Virgin Islands is not exactly known for producing great athletes with Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs being an exception.

“I visited a lot of schools when I was in high school,” says Davis. “I liked the football program here at UConn and I really liked the education that you got here. The program in on the upswing and I liked the Northeast location.”

Davis attended Antilles High School and played for the team in his final two years at the school as the institution reinstated football.

“I went to a college preparatory school, so I always planned on coming to the States for college,” says Davis. “At the end of my junior year there, I knew I could play football on the college level and that led me to UConn.”

As UConn football continues to grow and expand, the international players on the roster look to play a bigger role. Most of the “foreign Huskies” are younger players and are still adjusting to the Division I level. But, they look to get better and are another interesting component to the UConn football story.

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