#Santiago2023Ambassadors: Sammis Reyes, love for sports against all odds

Currently living in the United States, he played a season defending the Chicago Bears from the NFL. The American football player is now a Santiago 2023 ambassador.

Sammis Reyes life cannot be separated from sport. At nine years old he was already practicing football and basketball. Time has passed and he has consolidated as one of the most important sporting figures of our country, marking one of the most relevant milestones as being the first Chilean to play in the U.S. National Football League (NFL), the biggest American football competition of the world.

Thus, Sammis accepted the invitation of the Santiago 2023 Organization to be part of the Games Ambassadors team, even when his sport is not part of the Olympic circle. To be an example for young people promoting a healthy life and practicing sports were some of his biggest motivations to take this step.

What does it mean to you to be a Santiago 2023 Ambassador?
I consider it’s the best way to promote sports in our country, starting with children who will be watching the games which could be basketball, football, handball, or any sport. I think that being an athlete changed my life forever and it’s something that I keep in my heart, so I try to teach other people what sports offer. Having the chance to be an Ambassador of these events is a privilege for me, an honor, I feel proud of representing Chile at this level.

Have you seen if in the sporting environment people are talking about the Pan American and Parapan American Games?
Yes, definitely. In my circle of friends who are athletes, and from different sports, we’ve been talking about the Games and it’s something we’re all excited about, because I do believe that Chile will be a great host. People are doing an outstanding job, I know there’s a huge staff behind working to make an amazing high-quality event. Also, for our country, it’s an honor to hold an event like this and I know we’ll make it great.

Would you like American Football to be part of the Olympic cycle?
I think American Football is a great sport and I would love for it to be part of the Olympic cycle, I know that it’s being considered. I’m an ambassador of the NFL and I know they’re working to make this happen, something that I would love because this is a very nice sport that gives a lot of opportunities and I’m sure in Chile we could be awesome playing it.


Until 2019, the life of Sammis Reyes was focused on basketball, being a national athlete and trying to make his way into the competitive U.S. college circuit of the United States with the objective to get to the NBA.

However, he retires in 2019. During the pandemic, he obeyed those people who advised him to take a chance in American football. It was a risky bet but in the end, it was successful. Today, he is at the maximum level of this sport, playing at the tight end position, a place where no Chilean had ever played before.

The athlete born in Talcahuano is conscious that training and professionalism are the keys to grow and go far. Sammis wants to transmit this inspiration from his new role as ambassador of the Pan American and Parapan American Games.

What can you tell us about your life in the USA at this moment?
My current life in the USA is just work. It consists in getting up in the mornings and going to work. In my case the sport is my job, taking care of my body, living a quiet life with my girlfriend, Nicole, and focusing 100% on doing everything possible to reach the highest level within the NFL. As I said, focusing on sports, doing what I’m doing and going as far as possible.

Do you know about similar cases in which athletes have moved from basketball to American football or perhaps the other way around?
There are some, most of them from basketball to football and in the same position that I’m playing now. However, they’re few, it’s very rare and scarce, because as I said, at 23 years old I had given everything for basketball and it was hard to leave it. But, at the same time, it was the best decision that I could have made, because I’ve helped my family to have a better life.

What difference could you mention in terms of physical training for each sport?
They’re completely different sports. On the one hand, basketball is a sport that requires you to have an accounting of exercise so the cardiovascular physical condition is longer, those are longer preparations. On the other hand, American football is 6, 7, or 8 seconds each move, it’s everything planned and as explosive as possible, so you have to be stronger, be able to lift more weight as in the gym, and prepare your body for the impact. Basketball is a sport that has an impact but not as much as in American football, that’s why we use our armor and helmet, we need to prepare the small muscles of the whole body so we can receive the impact and don’t break something in our bodies. This is the daily training: focusing on the muscles of the neck, forearms, hands and that’s something that, over time, I’ve achieved to develop and what I’ve focused on.


Sammis Reyes repeats constantly his desire to be an example for younger people, to help others to improve their conditions, and motivation in this group to practice sports.

Which advice do you give to young people who want to become professional athletes?
Having played both sports has been a unique experience. I’m 23 years old and after playing for the Chilean national team and sweat blood for La Roja since I was 13, I had to step back and say “ok, now it’s the moment to try another sport”. During that time, I had to be very vulnerable and start from zero. I started from the fundamentals and from there I created a base to play American football, which is a sport that even when it has similarities with basketball, it’s still very different. So, having left my youth and adulthood as a basketball player until I was 23 years old and having started a new sport taught me a lot. In this sense, one of the things that I’ve learned and I consider is worth a lot it’s hard, intelligent, and constant work. It doesn’t matter if you do your work once, twice, or three times a week, you have to do it every day, 365 days of the year and that’s something that makes a difference.  This way you’ll differentiate from the other athletes inside your sport because not everyone is willing to do what I’m willing to do, this is what makes the difference and what has led me to succeed a little bit. I still think I have a long way to go. I think that’s the recipe and I’m going to continue to do that. At the end of the day, I want to be a little old man and look back and feel happy with my athletic career. Those are the lessons that basketball and American football have taught me.

Do you feel any responsibility for being the first Chilean playing in the NFL?
Having made it to the NFL and being the first Chilean to do so comes with a responsibility and there are athletes that decide to take it and others who don't. I decided to take it and feel that I’m an example for those people who also come from Talcahuano or Maipú which are places where I lived here, in Chile. As a teamwork, we decided that we can help to improve lives here, in my country. Why not show how effort can help you to fulfill your dreams? That at the end of the day, even if we are 40, 50, or 60 years old and independent of the industry, we are all fighting for a dream, a better life and we can also help each other by collaborating and working together to achieve those dreams. This is something that we have very clearly as a team, therefore we decided to be part of Santiago 2023 trying to help young people to know about more sports. There are people that have never gone to a handball, volleyball, or basketball game and we want to change that and help people to dare to go to a game, to live a new experience and enjoy how beautiful sports are. When you wear La Roja t-shirt, our national team t-shirt, it’s another kind of feeling, another emotion and joy. We all know those emotions through football but the same thing happens with other sports and that’s the beauty of this great event.

What would you like to say to those people who are thinking about being Volunteers of Santiago 2023? 
My dear volunteers who are part of this event or want to be part of it, you are essential for this to work and go well, also, I want you to be conscious about the impact of what you’re helping to make. Beyond your own experience, it’ll be useful for you to be part of an event of this magnitude and quality, and I hope you know that is amazing, what you’re doing and will do. This will be a very nice experience where you’ll be living in first person the sports of our country and America. So, it’s a privilege, an honor and also thank you so much for your loyalty to our country, your desire to do things well and being present in an event like this. Thank you very much and much love to all of you as well.

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