How far would you go to chase a dream? Would you move to another state? To the other side of a country? Would you leave behind all you know, just for a chance? Would you go halfway across the world, just for an opportunity?
That's what 6-foot-7, 290-pound offensive tackle Jasper Friis did.
For four years, Friis has thought of nothing but playing football at a high level. As youngster in Germany, Friis -- the son of a German father and a Brazilian mother -- played soccer for a year, before discovering the other kind of football. It was after Friis joined his first neighborhood club American football team in Munich that he started watching "Friday Night Lights" on television, and he was hooked.
"I said, 'I have to do that, too,'" Friis said. "I had just done it for fun, but after I watched that, I started to get competitive."
In 2013, he started playing club American football, "with a really small team," in his neighborhood in Munich. He played with several friends with that small club, but then started playing for a larger, city club team. He started watching NFL games, he said, on his phone, because NFL football isn't widely available overseas.
After Friis finished his 10th grade year, he was faced with a choice: Enter the workforce, continue with career-specific schooling with the intent on going to a university, or, leave his family and travel almost 6,000 miles to play high school football in the United States. He decided on San Bernardino (Calif.) Aquinas high school, and coaches Jordan Brusig and Nick Karavedas. He hasn't looked back.
"It's surprising -- my mom and dad were really excited when I said I wanted to go to the U.S.," said Friis, whose father works for a reinsurance company, and met his Brazilian mother while on vacation in Río de Janeiro. Once they met, he found a way to stay in Brazil for work, and the two grew closer. Eventually, he brought his bride back to Europe.
The Friis men, it would seem, have something in common: They find what they want, and they chase it.
"They were really supportive," Friis said. "They said, 'Go and chase your dreams.'"
No word on whether they were happy that their growing boy would no longer be eating them out of house and home.
"The day we said goodbye was hard, but they support me, and I'm happy that I can fulfill my dreams," Friis said.
The Aquinas staff found a host family for Friis, and seven months later, after just one season at the high school level, he's become an intriguing offensive tackle prospect. Friis uses his size to bully opposing defensive ends, playing with his hand in the dirt, and he keeps his feet churning and plays with great leverage, particularly on run blocking. He's still a bit raw, but shows plenty of enticing tools. He also boasts a 3.5 GPA.
"I'm improving, and I'm still working," Friis said. "It helps having this size, and I really try to take advantage of it."
Coming from Germany, to a place where his passion is almost a religion to many, was like ascending to heaven.
"It's great, the amount of people like me who love football, it's really cool," Friis said. "For example, in Germany, when I watch NFL games, I watch it on my phone, and now I can watch it everywhere. It's crazy."
It hasn't been easy, but the internet has been a help.
"It was tough, the first month, but you know, I was busy with school and football, so I didn't have too much time to worry," Friis said. "It's good that, because of technology, I can reach out to my parents every day. It's OK."
When Friis first arrived in the States, he only knew he wanted to play in the NFL -- that was his dream. The road to the NFL, though, goes through college, and he had not a clue about how college football recruiting worked.
"I didn't know anything about recruiting," he said. So, his coaches had to explain: They were going to take him to schools, send out his film, and tell college coaches about him, and then, they're going to call, and they're going to want you. Two weeks ago, Friis visited UNLV, and Fresno State. After his season was over, he was invited to watch a Rose Bowl practice by USC.
This Saturday, Friis and Karavedas traveled to Berkeley, driving up from Southern California on an invitation from California's new offensive line coach, Steve Greatwood, who had gotten in touch with Friis about two weeks prior.
"I came to see the campus, and the football facilities, and everything, and it was pretty nice," Friis said. "It was amazing. How can I describe it? It was more than I expected. The coaches really took good care of me and my coaches, and they are great people, the Cal staff. I'm excited to stay in touch with them."
After Friis was taken around campus, stopping for a bite to eat at the Bear's Lair and got an inside look at the facilities, the four-hour trip was over. After he left, he called head coach Justin Wilcox. The Bears wanted to extend Friis his first scholarship offer. This was his chance. This was the opportunity for which he traveled almost 6,000 miles.
"It means everything. It proves that I did something right," Friis laughed. "It motivates me to continue working."
Friis said he plans on coming back to Berkeley again, to watch Greatwood and the Bears get to work.