By Harry Minium

Ethan Duane reported a tearful farewell to his household in Melbourne, Australia in January of 2020, boarded a airplane and headed to The usa to perform soccer for Previous Dominion.

It was a aspiration occur accurate for the Australian Procedures Football and rugby player, who educated for practically a 12 months in the ProKick Australia plan to find out to punt a soccer, American type. His reward was a entire scholarship to engage in college football in the United States.

But small did he know that a pandemic would strike and shut down substantially of the globe and as a result deny him the opportunity to see his relatives for practically two many years, and who understands how substantially longer.

Duane has not found his family members in 20 months and given the rigid shutdowns Australia just lately imposed, he would not know when he will be able to see them yet again.

Because the pandemic commenced, Australia has adopted a lot more drastic actions than most nations around the world, primarily on travel, to limit the spread of COVID.

ODU Coach Ricky Rahne, a spouse and children-very first form of male, explained he are not able to consider what Duane has absent by.

“He hasn’t viewed his relatives in in excess of 20 months,” he mentioned. “Which is a horrifying proposition. I virtually freaked out because I didn’t get to see my children for 12 times a couple of months ago.

“Talk about creating sacrifices. I can not imagine how rough which is been for him.”

It really is been incredibly tricky, Duane mentioned.

“I’ve bought a few little sisters and my moms and dads back house,” he said. His sisters are Piper, 18 Remy, 16 and 13-calendar year-outdated Maya, and if you were being a young teen with a significant brother, you know they miss out on him terribly.

“Many thanks to technologies, to Facetime, I get to talk to them each and every day,” he explained. “But it can be not the identical.

“It truly is been extremely tough.”

It would have been a great deal more durable ended up it not for the thoughtfulness and kindness of Lori Wellbaum Emery and her son, ODU quarterback Hayden Wolff, and their extended relatives. 

When ODU’s players had been informed to go property indefinitely in March of 2020, Wolff termed his Mom.

“Hayden reported to me, Mom, we have acquired this Australian punter, and he is stuck and has nowhere to go and I was wanting to know if he could stay with us,’ ” Emery said.

Right before he concluded conversing, she mentioned of course, bring him property with you.

She states she’s always informed Hayden and his brother, Weston, if you ever have a good friend who wants a place to remain, “you can find an open up door in my household.”

Duane stayed in Emery’s property for a great deal of the up coming 5 months and by the time he returned to ODU in August of 2020, he was a member of the spouse and children. Hayden and brother Weston, a limited conclude at Maryland, now introduce them as their brother.

This becoming the period of blended people, Duane finished up investing time in a few homes. Jim Wolff, Hayden’s father, and stepmom Anaila Wolff, also welcomed Duane into their home.

So did the moms and dads of Hayden Wolff’s extensive-time girlfriend, Sophie Fraser, Jeff Fraser and Betsy Steiner-Fraser.

“Ethan has his very own area at my girlfriend’s household,” Hayden Wolff reported. “This has definitely been a team work.”

When the crew goes on break, Duane generally goes household with Wolff.

“He is my adopted son,” explained Emery, an lawyer in Englewood, Florida, positioned on the Gulf Coast just south of Sarasota.

Lori Emery and Ethan Duane
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Lori Emery and Ethan Duane

“He’s the trade student that I acquired to pick out.

“I just delight in him so considerably. He calls me ‘Mum.’ When he was here at Christmas, he bought the exact presents as everybody else, he bought his individual stocking. He is 100 % a aspect of my household.”

Duane reported that he’s “been extremely fortunate that Hayden Wolff and his spouse and children opened up their property and life to me. They completely improved my everyday living via the Covid time period and eased me staying homesick.

“They are loved ones to me now.”

ODU placekicker Dominik Soos understands what Duane is going by means of. The Budapest, Hungary indigenous moved to California as an trade university student to perform superior college soccer. He was recruited to become the soccer team’s placekicker as a senior, and then played two seasons of junior university football.

He joined ODU previous spring. Even though he regularly went residence though in significant school and junior school, the pandemic pressured him to remain in The united states for 18 months. He was at last ready to return in Could for a joyful, 3-week stop by.

“It was so magnificent,” Soos stated. “It was so nice to see my grandparents and moms and dads. They are not acquiring any more youthful.

“I fully grasp what Ethan is heading through. It is really extremely tricky for him, specially not realizing when he’ll be capable to get back again.”

Soos mentioned his 2nd family members in America has been the ODU staff and coaches. Rahne has built a society of caring for each other – Treatment, Contend, Character is the team’s motto. And Soos and Duane explained that is not just mentor-speak. It is been an important factor which is retained them grounded

Dominik Soos
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Ethan Duane and Dominik Soos

“We’ve received a incredibly awesome minor group in this article, a fantastic very little family,” Duane stated. “Each individual member of this team, from the workers to the athletic trainers to the coaches, has achieved out to us.

“They’ve taken us into their homes to make confident we’re looked after.

“That’s the lifestyle we’re making listed here. It can be a household.”

When Duane celebrated his 21st birthday on Aug. 16, the total workforce celebrated by heading to dinner at Apex Amusement Centre and Cafe in at Town Center in Virginia Seaside.

“We wished to do some thing pleasant for Ethan on his birthday,” Rahne mentioned.

Special teams gamers – kickers, punters, prolonged snappers and holders – typically develop a tight bond. B.R. Hatcher, ODU’s extensive snapper from Jefferson, South Carolina, reported he often complained about the 5 ½-hour push property to see his family members.

But no more time.

“I truly feel incredibly fortuitous,” he said. “It really is eye-opening that this man hasn’t been capable to lay eyes on his sisters, on his spouse and children, for likely on two years now.

“I truly feel for him and for his spouse and children and it tends to make me definitely grateful that I am equipped to see my household.”

Duane, Soos, Hatcher and Wolff are all roommates, and it really is pretty a mixture of cultures. Even though Australians communicate English, it is really not American English. And Soos’ English, though quite excellent now, was not as fantastic when he initially arrived at ODU.

“Ethan and I recognized each other the to start with time we achieved,” Hatcher stated. “But with Dom? The initial 7 days the only text we exchanged were ‘huh?’ “

American soccer was a international notion to Duane till he was approached by Nathan Chandler of ProKick Australia, an organization that recruits Aussies with solid legs and teaches them how to kick and receive scholarships to American schools.

ProKick’s good results is legendary. Duane was among additional than a dozen Australian punters and kickers who signed with FBS schools in December of 2019.

ProKick has despatched a lot more than 100 players to The us, together with 17 who have been named All-Americans, and generated far more than $19 million in college or university soccer scholarships for Aussies.

Duane has plainly place in the do the job. His correct leg appears to be like a tree stump. His proper thigh measures 28 inches, which is what my waist measured when I was in substantial faculty. It can be two inches even larger than his still left thigh.

“We’re expecting excellent points from Ethan this period,” Rahne stated.

Duane punted effectively in ODU’s scrimmage Saturday evening, with his initial kick carrying 48 yards.

Ethan Duane1
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Ethan Duane punting in follow

However he has zero knowledge in an American football recreation, or any activity in entrance of a huge crowd.

ODU opens its time Friday, Sept. 3, at Wake Forest’s Truist Field, which seats 31,500, and the recreation will be televised nationally on the ACC Network.

“I are unable to wait around,” Duane reported. “The nerves haven’t strike me nevertheless.”

The good news is, he said his family will be ready to view ODU’s video games this period – ESPN’s loved ones of networks, which televises most Monarch video games, is readily available Down Underneath.

“I will be taking part in for them,” he explained.

Emery claimed that Duane has had some ups and downs.

“There have undoubtedly been occasions when he was with us when he appeared very sad and was just silent by himself,” she said.

“When he is sad, we permit him have his time.”

Duane’s mom, Kirsten, and father, Scott, as perfectly as his three sisters, have also turn into near with Wolff’s loved ones.

“We have gotten to know his spouse and children pretty perfectly through Facetime,” Emery mentioned. “They are so grateful and grateful. In the course of holiday seasons and birthdays, we include them as substantially as we can.

Ethan Duane with new American family

“The a few sisters, when they converse to him, they want to talk to me, to Sophie, Hayden’s girlfriend, to all of us.

“Ethan is this sort of a great kid. He’s the very first 1 to bounce up and aid with the dishes. He is fiercely faithful. He’s the initially to check with, ‘do you want anything?’

“And if an individual is impolite to me, that isn’t going to sit well with him.”

When she recently moved into a new condominium, “Ethan under no circumstances sat down the entire day till I was fully unpacked,” Emery mentioned.

“I won’t be able to say more than enough about how a lot Ethan has greater the value of our lives. He is these types of a great child. I explain to his mom and dad, when they notify us they you should not know how to repay us, never stress, we know how.

“We’re all coming to Australia.”

When Duane’s mom just lately turned 50, Emery and spouse and children and Duane referred to as her on Facetime even though they were being consuming supper in a restaurant.

“Absolutely everyone in the cafe all joined in when we sang joyful birthday,” Emery explained.

“When Ethan handed the mobile phone to me, she was balling.”

On Duane’s 21st birthday, Emery posted a content birthday message on Fb that drew responses from his household in Australia and new loved ones in America.

His reaction says it all.

“Thanks Mum.”

Minium was two times nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in his 39 decades at The Virginian-Pilot and gained 27 point out and national producing awards. He covers all ODU athletics for odusports.com Adhere to him on Twitter @Harry_MiniumODU, Instagram @hbminium1 or email [email protected]
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