A 7-year-old’s inspiring journey from an Ethiopan orphanage to NFL stadiums

Ben Rohrbach
Prep Rally

Meet Matiwos Rumley, the 7-year-old African orphan who will compete in the NFL's Punt, Pass & Kick National Championships this weekend.

Matiwos Rumley, 7, won the New England Punt, Pass & Kick title at Gillette Stadium -- Facebook
Matiwos Rumley, 7, won the New England Punt, Pass & Kick title at Gillette Stadium -- Facebook

His rags-to-riches journey from an Ethiopian orphanage to Hebron, Conn., where his meteoric rise to football fame began, is featured in an incredible Harford Courant piece.

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A year ago, The Rumley family adopted Matiwos from Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, home to millions of orphans, according to the Courant. He knew one word of English: "Apple."

As soon as a week before Hebron's sectional Punt, Pass & Kick competition, Matiwos also had never picked up a football before. He proceeded to win sectional and state titles in October before claiming the New England crown prior to a Patriots-Bills game at Gillette Stadium on Nov. 11.

"The first time I see [the NFL] on television I say, 'Oh, my God! What is that sport?' " Matiwos told the paper in his improved English. "Then I see them tackle, I say, 'Whoo!'"

He grew up playing soccer, which gives him a decided advantage in PP&K competitions.

"They didn't have TV or PlayStation at the orphanage," said his adoptive father, Mark Rumley. "What they did from 7 in the morning until 8 at night was play soccer, two-on-two in an alley all day, every day, 12 hours a day in Crocs."

Matiwos also loves basketball, which recently led to a broken right thumb that barely even fazed the tough little guy. "I'll just throw lefty," he told the Courant.

Doctors at the Connecticut Children's Medical Center fashioned a blue cast for the 7-year-old Patriots fan in hopes he can compete righthanded in Saturday's NFL's Punt, Pass & Kick National Championships, where he enters as the No. 1 seed in the ages 6-7 division.

If he wins, Matiwos will be introduced on national TV during Sunday's Falcons-Seahawks game at the Georgia Dome, where we're guessing he'll have a few fans on his side.

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