Interview with Seattle Seahawks Offensive Lineman, Kristjan Sokoli:The Pan-Albanian Federation of America, VATRA, Washington DC branch, sat down with newly drafted NFL offensive lineman Kristjan Sokoli for an exclusive interview. The Albanian-born New Jersey Native talks about his initial contact with the sport, his upbringing and his family support. The 300-pound powerhouse is a man of integrity; he has a great career ahead of him and a jovial personality to go along with it.
• Tell us a little bit about yourself, where were you born? Your family?
A little about myself, I’m 23 years old and just graduated from the University at Buffalo with a major in management and focus in finance.
• What do you know about your family in Albania, the reasons why they left? My family in Albania left for a better opportunity. They knew it would be a tough transition but that in the long run, it would provide us with a better life and more opportunities in the work place.
• Albania has a harsh history, has that contributed to making you a tough player? I definitely feel motivated to work hard because I know how much my parents have been through to put us in this great position, to be living in the best country in the world. They are definitely the root of my work ethic.
• Do you ever visit Albania? I visited two years ago for 2 weeks and look forward to visiting again. Obviously my football schedule makes it tough to travel but I look forward to going back plenty of times in the future. I love my country.
• Do you remember what America looked like to you when you first got to New Jersey?
It looked like paradise (Laughs). The cities were full of lights, the supermarkets amazed me with how much they had of everything in them, being able to eat as much as I could anytime was great (More Laughs). I definitely was not starving by any means in Albania, but just being able to eat any type of food year around, and as much of it as I wanted to, was very cool. (Big Smile)
• What does a typical day of training entail for you, and eating? Well, with Seattle right now in Offseason workouts, it’s a bit easier than camp or the season as I’m only going from 8:30 a.m. to about 3:00 p.m. But I get up at 6:30 a.m. to get going and eat a big breakfast. My schedule on a typical busy day during the season at Buffalo was tough, classes began at 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., a quick lunch, then football (meetings and practice) from 1:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Quick dinner, then night class from about 7:00 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. So the grind was real, (Laughs).
• Kristjan, when did you start playing football? Eighth grade.
• How has your parents’ support impacted your success in football? At first they were very much against me playing cutback because of safety and general football stereotypes they had heard about. But after fighting them relentlessly on it, they realized I had a passion for it and were on board, supporting me every step of the way. Starting sophomore year of high school my dad paid for my training with Coach Reid who was a trainer my cousin Eddie got me linked up with.
• When you left Albania did you ever think you would be where you are today? No. Man, great question, to think where I was at 9 years old and where I am now…Can someone get my story to a Hollywood director? (Laughter) I just feel truly blessed and grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been presented with and my ability to make the most of them.
• You are the first Albanian in the NFL, is that a big responsibility? What does it mean to you? It sure is. Certainly I’m very proud of this achievement and I also understand it comes with some extra baggage, good and bad. One thing though is I’ll always do my best to remain true to who I am, the same guy that nobody knew about in high school and over looked, is the same guy I fight to remain even now that I’ve seen some success. I’m a man of faith and I have core values that I try to stand by firmly. I’m by no means perfect though and that’s something I do hope my fans will understand across the world.
• What message do you have for all your fans in America and abroad? Thank you for your support and use my story as motivation to keep working at it every day, whatever your craft may be. And to all Albanians, I love you and I appreciate you. Work hard, be good to your family, prosper and God bless!