Ukrainian exchange student learns football, heads to the state title game with WACO

Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 10:44 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WAYLAND, Iowa (KCRG) - The WACO Warriors are mostly local, small town boys.

But not Oleh “Odee” Shtefanchuk, who’s from Chernivtsi, Ukraine.

“It started out when I was 12 I just had a dream to come to America. Actually New York,” Odee admitted. “I didn’t know what Wayland, Iowa was I had never heard of it.”

Odee, who’s described as outgoing, didn’t take long to adjust to Wayland.

“People were great, great community,” he said. “Everybody’s really friendly.”

He has a basketball background, but some of his new friends introduced him to football.

“I knew about American football,” he said. “I wanted to try it, but I had no clue about the rules and just about the game in general. I didn’t play much offense just played defense and the first thing they told me was ‘just go get the ball.’”

Odee quickly got the hang of it, he’s still learning some rules, but it helped that gained 35 pounds between his junior and senior year.

“You don’t see kids gravitate to contact like Odee does if he hits ya you know he hits ya,” said WACO head football coach Chad Edeker. “And he still doesn’t know the game every once in a while he’ll get a penalty and we’ll say something to him and he’ll say ‘well I didn’t know that.’”

The undefeated Warriors are playing in the 8-player title game on Thursday.

“It’s amazing it feels great you feel a lot of support from the people, parents everybody,” Odee said. “We have an awesome student section.”

He wants to focus on football, but the war in his home country has forced him family to split apart. He was originally going to come home after his junior year, but he stayed after the war broke out.

“As soon as I would turn 18 there would be a chance for me to get drafted in the military and I don’t want that to happen.”

Odee’s father is out of the country for work, and if he were to come home, a lockdown for adult men wouldn’t allow him to leave again.

“I try to not follow it at all cause it just drains my energy and my parents just keep me followed on all the big things that happen.”

Odee says he wants to focus not on the war, but on a being a 17 year old, and a football player. He’ll get an incredible chance on Thursday.

“I just can’t wait to play. Just an opportunity of a lifetime” Odee said. “Everybody on the team is ready to play their heart out and leave it all out there.”