Houston may not be home, but the field is
UH is one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the nation, so it’s no surprise players from around the country and the world suit up in Scarlet to represent the Cougars on the football field.
Senior offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer, the star of the "Sebas’ School of German" segments shown at halftime at Robertson Stadium, is from Kaarst, Germany. He didn’t play football for his high school because it didn’t have a team.
"I was a swimmer for 10 years or so. A friend of mine took me to a club team. I started playing football, I liked it (and) five years later I was here," he said.
Vollmer helped his club reach the European Championship game while he was in high school and moved to Houston to play for UH in 2004, but his biggest adjustments lay off the field.
"At first it was kind of rough. I didn’t speak English," Vollmer said.
Football and supportive teammates helped Vollmer bridge the language gap.
"The terminology on the field is kind of the same, so you’ve only got to learn so many words," he said. "(The other players) were awesome. They were really patient with me."
Junior linebacker Shomari Williams, from Ontario, Canada, and also struggled to understand American expressions at first.
"When I first got here…it was the worst thing in the world," he said. "I used to ask (my roommate) something, and he’d say his answer, and…I’d act like I heard him but I had no clue what he said."
Although Williams’ brother is the only family member who’s been able to attend a football game, Williams said the encouragement he feels from his new city makes up for it.
"It’s great because everybody (here) supports Houston people. You have the support of your community, and that’s a really good thing to have," he said.Sophomore offensive lineman Jaryd Anderson has played football since seventh grade, even though it is sometimes difficult to play the outdoor sport in his hometown – Anchorage, Alaska.
"We start almost a month before everybody (else) really does. Our first game is Aug.14, roughly, so our season’s pushed up, that’s all it is," he said. "You can play football anywhere."
Still, Anderson almost didn’t get the chance to play football at the college level.
"It’s really hard to get recruited from back in Alaska. No scouts see you. I had my highlight films online and I got a call from Coach (Randy) Clements when he was here. I chose here because I know Texas has some of the best football."
Despite being so far from his family – Anderson’s parents usually make it to one game a year – he doesn’t regret coming to Houston.
"I’ve had the support of my family and I’ve made so many good friends here," he said. "It’s worth it."
Williams agrees being part of the Cougar football team outweighs the difficulties.
"It’s not hard because I’m here for a purpose. I know why I’m here," Williams said.
For Vollmer, his stay in Houston encompasses more than football.
"It’s the whole experience of…learning the language, playing football and getting an education," he said. "I’ve made awesome friends. I consider the football team my second family."