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Cairo Santos’ Remarkable Transition From Sao Paulo, Brazil to the Chicago Bears

American football (Photo by Sandro Schuh on Unsplash)
The Color Purple 2023

WHO IS CAIRO SANTOS?

It was one roommate’s curiosity that led to the life-changing discovery of Cairo Santos’ talents.

Born and raised in Sau Paulo, Brazil, Santos joined a high school exchange program to play soccer in the United States. He stayed with a host family in St. Augustine, Florida, and expanded on his athletic abilities.

Cairo Santos, kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs, during the Chiefs training camp at Missouri Western University in St. Joseph, Mo., on Aug. 19, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Bruce Jenkins)
Cairo Santos, kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs, during the Chiefs training camp at Missouri Western University in St. Joseph, Mo., on Aug. 19, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Bruce Jenkins)

Santos was “host” brothers with Tyler Burnett, who was a high school athlete himself and a peer. Not only had Santos never played American football, he hardly understood what the highly U.S. sport entailed.

However, this young man had a powerful soccer kick that raised some curiosity. One day, Burnett asked Santos at random to attempt kicking a football down the neighboring street. The results? A new potential was unleashed and an unexpected dream for Santos to become an American football kicker became a reality.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?  

Cairo Santos became the first Brazilian to ever play in the National Football League. On top of that accomplishment, he maintains an outstanding field goal record of 164, which is 83.7% of the field goals kicked for a single season.

Santos has inspired many cross-cultural athletes to utilize their skill-sets in new ways. In Brazil, soccer is the most renowned sport and establishes training for most young men by the time they can walk. Although he changed from kicking a soccer ball to a football, his nationality is a big attribute to his consistent kicking abilities.

WHAT CHALLENGES DID HE FACE, BEING THE FIRST BRAZILIAN FOOTBALL PLAYER IN THE NFL?

Just when you think it’s difficult to become a professional NFL kicker, Santos’ cultural fluidity presented its own challenges.

American Football (Image via Unsplash)
American Football (Photo by Dave Adamson on Unsplash)

First, he had a thick accent, making his English very difficult to understand. Second, he needed to dive into the football culture for the first time. He learned how the game works, the prominence of the NFL and all of the important logistics.

It’s not only a sport not popular in Brazil, but he never would’ve thought to try kicking a football if Tyler hadn’t suggested it. He mastered the rules and plays through the “Madden” video game. 

WHERE IS CAIRO SANTOS NOW?

Santos began his professional football career with the Kansas City Chiefs and eventually landed with the Chicago Bears. He has lived in nearly eight different U.S. cities, but has chosen to permanently reside in the Chicago area.

Despite his current 15 years in the United States and established citizenship, Santos maintains his citizenship in Brazil. He remains one of the most skilled kickers in NFL history.

However, it isn’t just his talents that make him an amazing football player. He puts his heart into everything he does, allowing his passion to drive his power on and off the field.

It all started with the chance his host-brother took on his athletic ability.

American football (Photo by Sandro Schuh on Unsplash)
Photo by Sandro Schuh on Unsplash
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