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7-year-old’s journey from African orphan to Punt, Pass & Kick champion (video)

Jan 14, 2013, 4:38 PM EDT

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Matiwos Rumley had never picked up a football before October of this year — in fact, he had never seen a game of football. Matiwos, a 7-year-old from Ethiopia, was adopted by a family in Connecticut in November. But he caught on to American sports rather quickly, and now he’s the national Punt, Pass & Kick champion in his age group.

Matiwos churned his way through the the PP&K sectionals in Hebron, Conn., and the state competition in Berlin before beating the other New England finalists at Gillette Stadium on Nov. 11. He accepted his trophy from Andre Tippett in front of 68,756 fans.

Then on Saturday at the Georgia Dome he won the national title, despite wearing a cast on his broken thumb. He was introduced during the Falcons-Seahawks playoff game. Great story here from the Hartford Courant.

When he arrived in Connecticut last Jan. 28, knew one word of English.

“Apple,” Matiwos said, smiling.

Even though he had never played football, Matiwos had a bit of an edge over many of the other kids. There was no TV or video games at the orphanage where he was raised in Ethiopia, so the children entertained themselves by playing soccer from morning until dusk every day.

Since he’s been in the U.S. Matiwos has played organized baseball, basketball and soccer, and is obviously proficient in football. But there’s one sport he longs to try, and his adoptive father promised they’d do it if he won the national title.

“I will need to take Matiwos bowling when I get back,” Mark Rumley said from Atlanta.