BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – At 6 feet 7 inches tall Cyrus Kouandjio is the biggest player on the Bills roster. And, he seems to stand even taller when the National Anthem plays prior to games.
Cyrus was born in Cameroon, Africa and moved to the United States when he was 4-years-old.
“I get phone calls from home back in Africa and I see the struggle and injustice and the level of… it’s tough back there.” Kouandjio said.
Cyrus was raised in America, but grew up hearing family stories of struggle. When Kouandjio’s father was young, he survived a rebellion near his small African village.
“When guys come in with guns and shoot and kill, most people run into the woods… he was lost in the woods for a year when he was 4-years-old.”
The 23-year-old brings a unique perspective to Colin Kaepernick’s ongoing fight for social and racial equality. Sunday, in Buffalo, the 49ers quarterback took a knee during the anthem as he’s done all season. Cyrus believes that’s his right as an American, but would never join him.
“I really respect the country that gave me what I have right now. I have a beautiful home and a beautiful wife and my family is taken care of and I wouldn’t do something like that because it gave me so much… I just can’t do it.
To me the American flag is a sign of… I want to say freedom again. It’s something that’s not given and it’s not free… there are people who gave their lives for this cause and this idea of the U.S. Look at our forefathers who structured this country around morals and ideas and guys like Abraham Lincoln, who sacrificed his life, and he ripped the country apart for the sake of freedom.”
There are certain freedoms that Cyrus is still working towards. He’s currently going through the naturalization process to become an American citizen.
“To be a part of the system and to have a voice in this country it’s a blessing because I always think about those that are left behind on the other side. It’s humbling. I just thank God every morning for the life he’s given me and the country he planted me into.
Yes, I do go back to the fact that we have our flaws here and there… whether it’s healthcare or police. But, I go back to the fact that its the closest to perfect country in the world.”