FLATWOODS - In the span of a couple days, Yannick Yewawa's life changed forever.
The first adjustment came when he arrived in the United States nine years ago from his home in the Republic of the Congo. His father uprooted the family because of continued violence in the central African nation and he sought to ensure their safety.
The second change came a couple days later, shortly after Yewawa's family departed Washington, D.C., and arrived at their new home in Braxton County. Young Yannick, still uneasy with the move, was unpacking his belongings and happened to turn on the television and came across a football game.
"I looked at that,'' he recalled Wednesday in mock amazement, "and said, 'What is this? It's kind of weird.' ''
Turns out that Yewawa would soon grow quite comfortable with his new life and his new pastime.
Yewawa, now a 17-year-old senior at Braxton County High School, has become a potential college recruit as a wide receiver-defensive back in that "kind of weird'' sport.
He's helped the Eagles to a 4-3 record and the No. 14 spot in the Class AA playoff ratings. Braxton knocked off No. 2 Ravenswood 51-13 last week to climb four spots in the rankings.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Yewawa has 12 receptions for 199 yards and one touchdown and has also returned two kickoffs and one punt for scores. On defense, he's made 25 tackles, broken up eight passes and intercepted another.
Besides busying himself with helping his team land a postseason berth, Yewawa would like to secure an opportunity to play football in college. It's certainly a very different life than the one he was leading back in 2002.
Back then, he was 8 years old and his family was in almost constant danger. His father, "a very influential person,'' according to Yannick, had many political enemies.
"The government wasn't very well liked by too many people,'' Yannick said, "and everybody came to my dad for advice. He had a Ph.D. He was a smart guy.
"It got to be very dangerous for me and my family. Civil rights, all kinds of stuff going on in the country - feuds and fights and wars. It's still going on right now. It got to the point where it was very hard for me and my family to basically live in peace. There were a few incidents at my house. A guy came with a gun and tried to rob us. My parents tried to hide it all from us, but it was a very tough environment. So my dad decided to move to give us a better opportunity as a family.''
His father came to the United States in 2001 to arrange the move, then returned for his family and brought them over the following year. As fate would have it, there was an opening to teach foreign languages in Braxton County, and that's where the Yewawa family landed.
Yannick didn't warm up to his new surroundings right away, and he had yet to tackle that strange sport he'd seen on TV.
"At first, I was an angry kid,'' he said. "The last thing I wanted to do was leave my country and my friends. I was so frustrated at first. When I was little, I was getting in fights all the time because I was frustrated.
"I didn't speak any English. I tried to communicate with other kids. But I'd hear them speak and I'd get mad, thinking they were talking about me. It was rough at first because I was so angry. But I thank God every day for these people. They stuck with me.''