German exchange student fits right in with football team
HOUMA, La. (AP) — When back-up high school linebackers get into varsity football games during blowouts it usually doesn’t generate much excitement from the starters watching from the sidelines.
Unless that linebacker is Terrebonne High junior Florian Thorak.
“The kids love it when he gets in,” Terrebonne football coach Gary Hill said. “When they see him do something -- his nickname is ‘Flo,’ — so they start yelling, ‘Look at ‘Flo!,’ ‘Look at Flo!.’ They enjoy seeing him doing things and improving on the field.”
Thorak is a German exchange student who arrived in Houma before the school year and joined the Tigers football team.
Since, he has been embraced by the team and the entire Terrebonne High community.
He has also been a part of one of the best seasons in Tigers football history.
Thorak finished high school in Germany but wasn’t sure what he wanted to do next.
Enter Parrish Gienger and his family.
Gienger is a student, band member and baseball player at Terrebonne and his family had thought about hosting a foreign exchange student for a while.
When Parrish and his family learned more about Thorak, they knew he was the right person and this was the right time to make it happen. Parrish made the call on accepting Thorak and the two have since grown close.
“Parrish got the golden key to take me,” Thorak said. “We have a lot of fun and are good friends. We went to New Orleans to watch the Saints game against the Rams. It was pretty unbelievable.”
Thorak said he has been in awe of how much talent the Tigers have on the roster this season and said he will be forever grateful for how well he has been treated by the players on the team.
“It’s a pretty cool time and I am happy to be here,” Thorak said. “I am a part of this family. I have had a lot of fun. They have taught me a lot. I come to the practice and just try and get better. These guys talk to me. They are honest and friendly with me. I appreciate that. When people in Germany are that good, they won’t talk to you like that because they are better than you.”
Hill said he has noticed how so many of the Terrebonne players, including key starters and players with college football futures, have taken the time to get to know Thorak.
“Our guys have done a great job of embracing him,” Hill said. “They understand he is not going home until May and they wanted to make him a part of this and feel appreciated and comfortable. It has been great to have him around. He is just a fun and interesting kid. He brings a lot of charisma to the team.”
Thorak played 10 years of high level handball in Germany and one year of football in his home country but admitted the level of football he is involved in here is completely different.
Even though he sees limited playing time in varsity games, he said he simply tries his best to improve and does whatever he can to help the team.
“It’s taken him a little while to get used to the speed of the game and the physicality of it, but he has enjoyed it,” Hill said. “He has soaked everything in during this football season.”
Thorak said his experience at Terrebonne and with the Tigers football team, which has included playing in front of packed stadiums much of the season, will stay with him for the rest of his life.
“It’s unbelievable,” Thorak said. “I never knew how much people loved high school football here. It’s something I never imagined. It’s hard for me to find words to explain what this has been like for me.”