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“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

-Isaiah 43:18-19

 

Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis is a star in West Lafayette, Indiana. After growing up in Greece, Karlaftis and his family moved to Indiana when he was 13 where he attended West Lafayette High School. Karlaftis chose to attend his hometown school of Purdue as he became the Boilermaker’s 3rd best football recruit of all-time. As he has risen to stardom for the Boilers and is now a projected 1st round pick in the 2022 NFL draft, he has been strengthened to where he is today by his faith and his relationship with his girlfriend, Kaia Harris.

George and Kaia met in high school and were high school sweethearts on their way to Purdue. Everything seemed to be going well for the both of them before tragedy struck late in 2019.

Kaia with George during her recovery
On November 9th, Kaia and two friends were involved in a near fatal car accident with an 18-wheeler on the highway. Kaia was rushed to the hospital, although many doubted she would be able to live. She was filled with internal bleeding as nearly all her internal organs were lacerated, and had both lungs collapsed.

She would later be diagnosed with broken ribs and a traumatic brain injury. As her family and friends gathered in her hospital room, shock filled them. But as she began to regain strength, they were all left in awe by the courage that Kaia showed. As Kaia returned to doing what she loved, she soon joined the Purdue track team and became a student athlete with George at Purdue. Through it all, George says he is amazed by Kaia and the way she showcased her resilience in the most difficult of times.

“Kaia’s courage just shows me that God has a plan for her. Her courage and mentality are truly inspiring and something that inspires me. That just goes to show that you might be having soreness or pain somewhere but that is not that significant in the grand scheme of things.” Kaia reflects those same words, saying that the accident has been a reminder to never take a day for granted.

“The accident made me realize that life is short and that I spent a lot of time worrying about things that do not necessarily matter in the end, or things out of my control. It gave me a greater appreciation for daily life and put things in perspective. I have also been overwhelmingly surprised by the amount of support I have received and continue to receive from family, friends and the community.”

That same community has supported George as he has worked his way towards playing football at Purdue and preparing for the next level.

Courtesy of Chad Krockover/ krockphotography.com
Crediting teammates like Rondale Moore, David Bell, and Derrick Barnes since coming to Purdue, he has been able to grow exponentially. After he missed much of the 2020 season after getting COVID, he has immediately made his presence known for the Boilers in their first 3 games of 2021. Leading them to a 2-1 start after falling to 12th ranked Notre Dame, he says he plays the game of football with faith as his guide.

“My faith gives me the strength and courage to do anything I want to do within the sport. I can achieve all things through Him as long as I work hard. As a Christian, I am doing everything to glorify God. For me it’s faith, family, and football.”

As George and Kaia prepare for the next steps in their lives and the uncertainty of what it may bring, they both say they are just treating everyday as though it may be their last. Kaia says her relationship with George has been paramount in helping her grow to who she is today.

“George is 100% the most disciplined person I have met in my life. His workout regimen, diet and care for his body are unmatched. Personally, he is extremely supportive and has helped me grow as we move through different stages of life together. He is so supportive that I cannot remember a time he has not been there. He is always teaching me new things and sharing random facts, tips or conspiracies that keep me on my toes.”

With a support system like no other, George and Kaia are looking to make their mark on Purdue and the world by reminding them to take advantage of each day and always be a light in someone’s life.

 

Ethan Kruse

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