As time went on, the young Yewawa picked up on the English language, and rather quickly. A friend of his father's helped his transition by registering him for a local midget football team.
"I had no idea what to do,'' Yannick said. "I just went and did what they told me to do. It's kind of crazy. I'd always played soccer, and I've always been athletic. But soccer was the only thing I played.''
Turns out he had a knack for the new sport, especially the running and catching. He came up through the ranks and grew into a solid player.
"We used him in the backfield as a freshman,'' said Braxton County coach Matt Rollyson. "We utilized him with the evolution of the tunnel screen and bubble screen and spot pass, which is essentially a run or quick toss for us. We utilized him on the perimeter, tried to get him on the edge and into the open field and have him make plays.
"Yannick's very, very good in space. He's not a 4.3, 4.4 kid in the 40[-yard dash], but he's a legit 4.6. That's not fantastic in college, but in high school, it's fast. He's very elusive one-on-one and has very good footwork.''
Yewawa doesn't possess eye-popping stats playing on a balanced team, but still feels like he can contribute to a college program.
"That's definitely one of my goals,'' he said. "It's been my dream since I started getting good at this game. I'd really love the opportunity to take it to the next level. Of course, sports isn't always guaranteed, and my parents always taught me to have a Plan B. I'd like to run my own business when I get older. But I'd love to go to college and play football. WVU is one of my favorite schools. I'd love to go to a place like that. I'm very confident in my ability and I think I'd make a great asset.''
Yewawa doesn't shy away from the fact he's a minority - a black athlete in a rural West Virginia community. But he said he's able to deal with it.
"Obviously racism is still in the world, everywhere you go,'' he said. "It doesn't matter if it's racism against white people in Africa or racism here against black people. I really didn't know racism until I got here. I was real angry anyway, and it was hard for me to handle that, but there are a lot of friendly people here, good people who helped me through it. Some friends I met in the third grade are my best friends now.
"Racism is one of the hardest things. I work at it every day. It's not everywhere, but sometimes it shows its ugly head. Basically, there are only a few black people here, so anything I do is going to be magnified. I've really got to watch myself, keep my cool. I'm a very ambitious guy, but I'm no troublemaker. I'm a friendly guy. As I got older, it got a lot easier because people stuck with me.''
Rollyson said Yewawa has proven to be a model student-athlete, with solid grades and a solid standing in the community.
"In a rural community, [discrimination] happens regardless of your race or cultural or ethnic background,'' Rollyson said. "Even if you get another kid who just moves in from another county. There are some different issues, and that's just kids. But as far as his relationship with his peers and among the teachers and the community, it's very good. He and the kids get along excellent, and he has a very positive relationship with the coaches. We're definitely glad to have him. He's a great kid and we enjoy the opportunity to work with him and give him the opportunity to grow and mature.''
Yewawa has no idea what would have happened to him if he and his family had stayed in Africa. But more than likely, it wouldn't be good.
"It's rough living over there,'' he said. "It's really brutal. The opportunities are slim to none. I really don't know where I'd be if I wasn't here. There's a lot of stuff over there to distract you - a lot of violence, a lot of bad stuff. I thank God every day. I don't know where I'd be if I wasn't here.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickr...@wvgazette.com.