By Jay Davis
The game of football can almost be taken for granted here in America. Whether a youngster takes up the game or not, nearly every boy in the U.S. is exposed to the game by the time he learns to look both ways before crossing the street. It wasn’t that way for foreign exchange student Andrea Murri. Tt wasn’t that way at all.
When Andrea arrived in Mobridge in mid-August to spend the school year with host family Duane and Liz Rische (son Trace and daughter Caitlin), he had never held a football in his hands. But he did know enough to understand that he wanted to learn the game as a member of the Mobridge-Pollock Tigers.
“It was a completely new experience,” said Andrea.
Andrea was a bit of a sponge on the practice field, absorbing everything he could about this American game. He learned enough that he got on the field and played a lot during the junior varsity schedule.
“I was a lineman,” said Andrea. “I’m not that big, but I’m strong.”
Being from Europe, Rome, Italy, to be exact, Andrea did have a background kicking a ball and that led to the chance to do some placekicking. After having some success with extra points during junior varsity games, Andrea got his chance to put his right foot to work during the second half of the game in the Tigers’ 46-16 home win over Cheyenne-Eagle Butte on Oct. 18.
His first attempt had plenty of leg, but drifted wide to the left.
“I was too emotional on the first one,” said Andrea.
The next two attempts sailed right through the goalposts. His second extra point was the Tigers’ last point of the night.
“It was a really neat sensation,” said Andrea. “I helped the team win!”
Tiger football coach Nathan Lamb appreciated having Andrea on the team.
“Andrea is a very hard-working individual,” said Lamb. “He tried to learn everything we were teaching him and was willing to do whatever he could to help the team.”
Rome, a city of 2.7 million people, might have about five organized football teams, but Andrea may try to find one.
“I would like to play the game in Rome,” said Andrea.
Move the clock ahead to today and Andrea can be found in the wrestling room working out with his new team. This is not a step into the unknown. Andrea has three years wrestling experience. His main obstacle here will be taking his training in freestyle and transferring it to folk-style wrestling.
“I’m pretty excited for the season,” said Andrea. “I had one of the best coaches you can meet, a world champion from Cuba.”
Andrea wrestles at 74k, which translates to the 160-pound division here. It happens to be the same weight class as his wrestling hero, 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs. Andrea even got to meet his idol when he traveled with David and Kyle Jensen to Lincoln, Neb., to visit former Mobridge-Pollock and current Nebraska wrestler Collin Jensen. Burroughs also wrestled collegiately for the Cornhuskers.
One of the big differences between high school athletics in the U.S. and Italy, and one he thoroughly enjoys and is taking full advantage of, is that at home they don’t have school gyms. His school does not have a wrestling room. In fact, they don’t have sports in schools. It is an extra activity that must be joined privately.
Andrea is also a boxer and has a 17-3 record with five or six TKOs so far in his young career.
“I am pretty good,” said Andrea. He added that his favorite boxer is Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Andrea can relate to his wrestling family on the home front. His host brother, Trace, is also a Tiger grappler.
A junior at MPHS, Andrea will have to do some testing and then take year 13 in school when he finishes his high school education in Rome.
His family is his dad Giovanni, mom Tiziana and brother Luca. With his family having medical background, his mom is a general manager at a hospital and his dad works in a big pharmaceutical company, Andrea would like to be a doctor, maybe a cardiologist, one day.
That may lead to more years hear in the United States. Andrea said he would like to further his education here or in England, where there is more scholarship money available. He said attending universities in Europe is very expensive.
With his free time, Andrea likes absorbing Americana. He said his favorite hobbies are watching UFC fighting and watching movies.