AUSTIN, Texas —
We live in a shrinking world, where distances disappear with every keystroke on the internet.
On Wednesday night in Austin, Texas, two future Oregon State Beavers met each other the old fashioned way — with a handshake and a hello after one traveled what seemed half a world to get there.
of New Boston (Texas)
, and Fred Lauina of American Samoa live more than 5,000 miles apart. But for a few minutes before preparations for the 2013 International Bowl began in earnest, they were simply a couple of football players talking about their lives and love for the sport they share.
"This is very cool," said Haskins, a running back for the U.S. Under-19 National Team. "We got to talking about Oregon State, and we are going there for pretty much the same reasons. We like the campus, the coaches, the atmosphere. We don't disagree on much of anything."
Except, of course, who they want to see win on Tuesday night.
Haskins and Lauina are a week away from signing their letters of intent and becoming college teammates. They will spend years together in the weight room, at the training table, on the practice field and likely in the classroom as well.
For now, though, they remain rivals.
"The United States players are big, very tall," said Lauina, an offensive lineman for the IFAF World Team. "But size isn't everything. We play with a lot of heart. We've proved that, and we'll show it again."
Wednesday gave players and coaches an evening to come together and share a meal before practices and meetings start Thursday morning. Competition is the focus of the week, but there are longer-lasting goals to be had as well.
The seed of friendship — such as the one Haskins and Lauina have a chance to build — can be planted here in Austin.
"There is something special about football," IFAF World Team head coach Tuomas Heikkenen of Finland said. "It teaches the values of life in lessons that cross boundaries and languages. We have a unique opportunity to come here to the United States, meet you and play this sport with you. I hope you get as much out of this wonderful chance and experience as we will."
Football creates a series of moments to rise up and capture, USA Football National Teams Director Garrett Shea said. He challenged players and coaches on both sides not to let these opportunities pass by them.
"Tonight represents the beginning of a celebration of this sport through fellowship and competition," Shea said. "My hope is that you all return home better players but that we all return home better people for having met and gotten to know each other."
Haskins looks forward to following Lauina's blocks soon in Corvallis. For now, though, he is working alongside his American teammates.
"I enjoyed talking to players from Canada, from Mexico, to Fred," Haskins said. "We shared stories about what it's like to be in high school, to play football and to go to college.
"But by the time we get back to the hotel, it'll be about this game."See the USA team roster and more on the International Bowl and USA Football.