Sep 23, 2012
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, IL - Emmanuel Souarin's 44-yard interception return for a touchdown gave SIU a huge lift in yesterdays 14-6 win over Missouri State, no doubt.
That pick-six pales in comparison to the type of generosity the Saluki senior cornerback is known for back home, however. As his extended family can attest, Souarin would give you the shirt off his back -- literally.
Although Souarin was born in Miami, his parents, Adelind and Gared, and his three older siblings, are all natives of Haiti. They lived in a country where the majority of residents are unemployed and have to scavenge just to survive.
"When they lived in Haiti, my parents found stuff from trash cans to sell on the street," Souarin said. "It's hard to live there. People die from hunger, diseases all the time."
So when a pair of shoes or a piece of clothing wears out, instead of disposing of the items, Souarin packs them up and ships his well-worn stuff back to his aunts, uncles and cousins in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
He routinely sends what little extra spending money he has to people he's never even met. That's simply how he was raised by his parents, who are remarkable people in their own right.
Emmanuel Souarin returns an interception 44 yards for a TD against Missouri State.
In 1990, Souarin's mom and dad were granted green cards to live and work in the United States. When they arrived in Miami with their children, they knew no one and spoke no English. His parents enrolled in a special school for immigrants and quickly learned the language.
Initially, they provided for their family by selling items at flea markets, but after learning English, his mom got a nursing job, while his Dad worked in construction. They were eventually awarded citizenship.
Although more than 20 years have passed since they've lived in Haiti, the Souarins continue to send money, clothing and any other assistance they can back to their relatives.
Souarin went on to become an extraordinary football player at Norland High School, where he played quarterback, running back, receiver, cornerback, return man and placekicker.
"I scored in every category there is in football," he said. "I was just blessed to have that talent."
Numerous schools offered Souarin a scholarship, but he decided to stay in Miami and play for Florida International. He played in every game during his three seasons at FIU and has a bowl-game victory to his credit with the 2010 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl title.
Throughout his career, Souarin's parents have been supportive, but not especially interested in football. They are preoccupied by higher things, he said.
"They care, but they aren't much of a football family," he said. "They're a Christian family that goes to church almost every day. Unless I tell them the game is on tv or radio, they won't see it. You have to understand, in Haiti, God is all they have. God is the father they rely on for food and a home and to watch over them."
After earning his undergraduate degree in sports management, Souarin was ready for a new challenge and to see a new part of the country.
"Florida International was a great school and there was nothing wrong with my experience there," he explained. "I just wanted to start a new life and find a new opportunity. Ever since I've been here, I've loved the community and love my teammates. I like how the coaches treat me. I've made Carbondale my home."
Living in southern Illinois has been an adjustment, of course, but one that he's enjoying.
"Miami is a fast-paced life and you have something to do every day," Souarin said. "Carbondale is laid back and I love it here. I've met new people from different places. There's a different swag that I really like."
Souarin is a fierce competitor, and after watching film last summer of SIU's 2011 season, he came to an off-season workout and lit a fire under his teammates.
"If you're working out around me and want to be my teammate, you have to be really strong, really hard core and want to battle," he said, recalling the day of his outburst. "No one really knew me, and some of them looked at me weird, like, what are you doing? I said we have to do it if we want to be the top team in the nation."
Souarin hopes to play professional football, but if not, he would like to coach or be involved in sports in some way. No matter where life takes him, he will always take care of his Haitian relatives.
"My motivation is my family," he said. "If they just get a pair of shoes, they are happy for it, and I'm really grateful I can help."
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