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“I’ll be the first Ethiopian player to play in the National Football League,” said Berhe (pronounced Bur-HEY). “That’s huge for me and huge for my family and huge for the people in Ethiopia. It’s a big feat. Not a lot of people from East Africa are in the National Football League. I look at it all the same, Ethiopia, Eritrea, it’s all the same, just different name.”
A list of the most famous Eritrean athletes contains almost exclusively long-distance runners such as Ali Abdallah, Nebiat Habtemariam and Simret Sultan. Meb Keflezighi last month won the Boston marathon and is an Eritrean refugee who went to UCLA. Thomas Kelati, an American-born basketball player from Washington State of Eritrean heritage, was once with the Lakers in training camp and plays professionally in Europe.
Berhe, a California native who has never visited Africa, but plans to do so in the near future, has also posted on Twitter: “Shout out to my Habesha [those residing in the Horn of Africa] people, much love and respect. Will make you proud.”