Minium: family of ODU quarterback Hayden Wolff ‘adopted’ Australian punter Ethan Duane



Through Harry mini

Ethan Duane said a tearful farewell to his family in Melbourne, Australia in January 2019, boarded a plane and headed to America to play football for Old Dominion.

It was a dream come true for the Australian rules football and rugby player, who trained for almost a year in the ProKick Australia program to learn how to play a soccer ball, American style. His award was a full scholarship to play college football in the United States.

But he had no idea that a pandemic would strike and shut down much of the world and deny him the chance to see his family for nearly two years, and who knows how much longer.

Duane has not seen his family for 20 months and given the strict closures imposed by Australia recently, he is unsure when he will be able to see them again.

Since the start of the pandemic, Australia has taken more drastic measures than most countries, especially when it comes to travel, to limit the spread of COVID.

ODU trainer Ricky rahne, a family-friendly guy, said he couldn’t imagine what Duane had been through.

“He has not seen his family for over 20 months,” he said. “It’s a horrible proposition. I almost panicked because I couldn’t see my kids for 12 days a few months ago.

“Talk about making sacrifices. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for him. “

It was very difficult, said Duane.

“I have three little sisters and my parents at home,†he said. Her sisters are Piper, 18; Remy, 16; and Maya, 13, and if you were a young teenager with a big brother, you know they miss him terribly.

“Thanks to technology, at Facetime I can talk to them every day,†he said. “But it’s not the same.

“It was very hard.”

It would have been much more difficult without the thoughtfulness and kindness of Lori Wellbaum Emery and her son, the ODU quarterback Hayden wolff.

When ODU players were told to go home indefinitely in March 2020, Wolff called his mother.

“Hayden told me, Mom, we have this Australian bettor, and he’s stuck and has nowhere to go and I was wondering if he could stay with us,†Emery said.

Before he finished speaking, she said yes, take him home with you.

She says she always told Hayden and her brother, Weston, that if you ever have a friend who needs a place to stay, “there’s an open door in my house.”

Duane stayed with Emery for five months and by the time he returned to ODU in August 2020, he was a member of the family. Hayden and his brother Weston, a tight end from Maryland, now present them as their brother.

“They’ve done great things for Duane,†Rahne said of Emery and his family.

When the team is on hiatus, Duane always goes home with Wolff.

“He’s my adopted son,†said Emery, an attorney in Englewood, Fla., Located on the Gulf Coast just south of Sarasota.

Lori Emery and Ethan Duane

Lori Emery and Ethan Duane

“I was able to choose the exchange student.

“I appreciate him so much. He calls me ‘Mom.’ When he was here at Christmas he got the same gifts everyone else got, he got his own stocking. He’s 100 percent part of my family. .

Duane said he was “very lucky that Hayden wolff and his family opened their home and their life to me. They completely changed my life during the Covid period and made me feel homesick.

“They are part of my family now.”

ODU placekicker Dominik soos knows what Duane is going through. The Budapest, Hungary native moved to California as an exchange student to play high school football. He was recruited to become the football team’s placekicker as a senior, then played two seasons of junior college football.

He joined ODU last spring. While he regularly returned home from high school and college, the pandemic forced him to stay in America for 18 months. He was finally able to return in May for a joyous three-week visit.

“It was so awesome,†Soos said. “It was so nice to see my grandparents and my parents. They are not getting any younger.

“I understand what Ethan is going through. It’s very difficult for him, especially not knowing when he can come back.”

Soos said his second family in America was the ODU team and coaches. Rahne has built a culture of caring for each other – Caring, Competing, Character is the motto of the team. And Soos and Duane said it wasn’t just a coaching speech. It was a big factor that kept them anchored.

Dominik soos
Ethan Duane and Dominik soos

“We have a really nice little community here, a great little family,†said Duane. “Every member of this team, from staff to sports coaches and coaches, contacted us.

“They took us to their home to make sure we were taken care of.

“It’s the culture we’re building here. It’s a family.”

When Duane celebrated his 21st birthday on August 16, the entire team celebrated with a dinner at Apex Restaurant in Virginia Beach.

“We wanted to do something good for Ethan on his birthday,†Rahne said.

Special team players – kickers, bettors, long snappers and starters – usually develop a close bond. BR hatcher, the ODU long snapper from Jefferson, South Carolina, said he often complained about the five and a half hour drive to get home to see his family.

But not anymore.

“I feel very lucky,†he said. “It’s telling that this man hasn’t been able to lay eyes on his sisters, his family, for two years now.

“I feel for him and for his family and it makes me really grateful to be able to see my family.”

Duane, Soos, Hatcher and Wolff are all roommates, and it’s a mix of cultures. Although Australians speak English, it is not American English. And Soos’ English, while pretty good now, wasn’t as good when he first came to ODU.

“Ethan and I understood each other the first time we met,†Hatcher said. “But with Dom?” The first week, the only words we exchanged were ‘huh?’ “

American football was an alien concept to Duane until he was approached by Nathan Chandler of ProKick Australia, an organization that recruits Australians with strong legs and teaches them how to kick and earn scholarships in American colleges.

The success of ProKick is legendary. Duane was among more than a dozen Australian punters and kickers who signed with FBS schools in December 2019.

ProKick has sent over 100 players to America, including 17 who have been named All-Americans, and has generated over $ 19 million in college football scholarships for Australians.

Duane clearly got to work. His right leg looks like a tree stump. Her right thigh is 28 inches, which my waistline measured when I was in high school. It’s two inches taller than his left thigh.

“We’re expecting big things from Ethan this season,†said Rahne.

Duane kicked well in the ODU scrum on Saturday night, with his first kick covering 48 yards.

Ethan Duane1
Ethan Duane boat in practice

Yet he has no experience in an American football game, or any game in front of a large crowd.

ODU opens its season on Friday, September 3 at Truist Field in Wake Forest, which seats 31,500 people, and the game will be televised nationally on the ACC network.

“I can’t wait,†Duane said. “Nerves haven’t hit me yet.”

Thankfully, he said his family will be able to watch ODU games this season – the ESPN family of networks, which stream most of Monarch’s games, are available Down Under.

“I will play for them,” he said.

Emery said that Duane has had its ups and downs.

“There were definitely times when he was with us when he looked very sad and was just calm on his own,†she said.

“When he’s sad, we give him his time.”

Duane’s mother, Kirsten, and father, Scott, along with his three sisters, have also become close to Wolff’s family.

“We got to know his family very well through Facetime,†said Emery. “They are so grateful and grateful. During holidays and birthdays, we include them as much as possible.

Ethan Duane with the New American Family

“The three sisters, when they talk to her, they want to talk to me, to Sophie, Hayden’s girlfriend, to all of us.

“Ethan is a great boy. He is the first to jump and help with the dishes. He is fiercely loyal. He is the first to ask, “Do you need anything? “

“And if someone is rude to me, that doesn’t suit them.”

When she recently moved into a new condominium, “Ethan never sat all day until I was completely unpacked,†Emery said.

“I can’t say enough about how much Ethan has increased the value of our lives. He’s a great kid. I tell his parents, when they tell us they don’t know how to pay us back, don’t worry. , we know-how.

“We all come to Australia.”

When Duane’s mother recently turned 50, Emery, her family, and Duane called her on Facetime while they were having dinner at a restaurant.

“Everyone in the restaurant joined us when we sang happy birthday,†Emery said.

“When Ethan handed me the phone, it was cracking.”

About Duane 21st birthday, Emery posted a happy birthday message on Facebook that elicited reactions from his family in Australia and his new family in America.

His answer says it all.

“Thanks Mom.”

Minium has been nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize during his 39 years at the Virginian-Pilot and has won 27 state and national writing awards. He covers all ODU sports for Follow him on Twitter @Harry_MiniumODU, Instagram @ hbminium1 or email [email protected]



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