Cairo Santos: "It's a little bit of a dream coming true for me"

Santos is back home in Brazil for the next few weeks

Everybody has a story, but for professional athletes, the path to get to the highest level in the world of a particular sport is more often than not filled with adversity. 

For Kansas City Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos, the goal was never to be a professional football player because it wasn't ever thought of for a kid growing up in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

"When I was a kid, my ultimate dream was to be a soccer player and play for Brazil," Santos explained. "That's what we knew growing up where I did. You look up to those guys—they're your heroes. I thought soccer was my only chance to be a professional athlete. I never thought this could happen."

Santos, who moved to the United States by himself as a 15-year-old kid as part of a high school exchange program, had never kicked a football when he moved in with a host family in Florida—a family he had only spoken to a week prior to arriving in this distant and unknown place.

Now, flash forward almost a decade, and that same kid who didn't speak much English or know anything about football back then is looked upon as a hero by some back in his home country.

Santos' path to the NFL has given kids in Brazil a road map of how to achieve something other than just playing soccer, and while every path is different, the responsibility to be an example to this generation of kids in his native country is something Santos has embraced.

"With me being the only Brazilian in the NFL, I feel really close to that role," Santos explained of being a role model. "There are a lot of people (in Brazil) starting to fall in love with a sport they didn't know much about before, and they look up to me—like someone they want to follow the same path as, and it's humbling.

"It's a little bit of a dream coming true for me. I want to be that kind of hero that I looked up to when I was a kid."

Just this past Monday, Santos returned to Brazil to spend the next several weeks with family and train on his own before he returns to Florida in mid-March.

Over the past year in particular, Santos has played an active role with the NFL in helping promote and trying to spread the sport in Brazil, and it's something he's going to continue to do this offseason.

"It's exciting," Santos explained. "I like to take the whole season to focus on football, but when that's over, I like to just give back to the fans. I'm going to be more active on social media and do a lot of live stuff to help show Brazil and everyone else what this is all about."

Santos, who said he'll run some camps and do some other things in Brazil this offseason, said he's even trying to get one of his teammates to join him there for a trip later this summer, but they're still working on the details.

It's all continuing a journey that Santos says doesn't surprise him, but one that he couldn't have predicted as a kid who didn't know anything about a sport that is now his profession.

It's given him a platform to make a difference and potentially open doors for others in Brazil.

"I would have never believed it," Santos said of his path. "It's kind of mind-blowing at times, but at the same time, I'm not surprised, because I did the right things to make it happen—finishing school and staying out of trouble.

"I'm proud of this journey."

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