Before George Karlaftis Had Super Bowl Hopes, He Rose Water Polo Ranks in Greece

by Riley Overend 1

February 12th, 2023 News, Water Polo

One Super Bowl participant’s athletic journey began years ago in the water. In fact, if it wasn’t for a tragic twist of fate, Kansas City Chiefs defensive end George Karlaftis might still be playing goalie for Greece’s top-ranked water polo team.

Born and raised in Athens, Karlaftis said “swimming was big” growing up. He was around water “basically at all times,” quickly becoming a “really good swimmer.” His dad, Matt, suggested he try water polo and started taking him to practices every night.

“I started getting really good and playing with kids who were older and older,” Karlaftis recalled. “I was playing with the men’s group when I was 13. My dad kind of made a push for that.”

Everything changed after Matt died of a heart attack when Karlaftis was just 13 years old, right before a water polo tryout with the national team. Within 48 hours of the tragedy, his mother, Amy, decided to move the family back to West Lafayette, Indiana, where she had met Matt while the two were studying at Purdue University.

At first, Karlaftis was hesitant to take up football because his dad had suffered a head injury during a football practice at the University of Miami. But once a coach convinced him to join the team, his natural athleticism was impossible to ignore. He amassed 41 sacks during his high school career, graduating early and following in his parents’ footsteps by enrolling at Purdue in January of 2019.

As a true freshman, Karlaftis totaled 54 tackles and 7.5 sacks while starting all 12 games for the Boilermakers. Last year, he declared for the 2022 NFL Draft, where he was selected 30th overall in the first round by Kansas City. As a rookie this season, he has racked up 33 tackles, seven pass deflections, six sacks, and two fumble recoveries.

Karlaftis isn’t the only multi-sport athlete in his family. His younger brother, Yanni, won a youth world championship in judo at 11 years old before joining Purdue as an outside linebacker in 2021.

If you’re an aquatic fan looking for someone to root for in this year’s Super Bowl, Karlaftis just might be your guy. Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs (16-3) and Philadelphia Eagles (16-3) kicks off Sunday at 6:30 p.m. EST on Fox.

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7 months ago

So cool.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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