Haitians Aim to Blaze Super Bowl Trail

As Haiti looks to rebuild from January's devastating earthquake, part of the country is already growing - and flourishing - overseas. Haiti, it turns out, is a hotbed of pro-football talent.

Four players in Sunday's Super Bowl XLIV are Haitian Americans, and an extraordinary number of other Haitians are looking to follow in their footsteps.

In the weight room at Treasure Coast High School in Port St. Lucie, Fla., there's a treasure trove of talent, reports CBS News Correspondent Jeff Glor.

Fifteen players from this year's graduating class signed football scholarships to play in college, a staggering number even by football-mad Florida standards.

Three of those players are Haitian American, including Jeff Luc, the best high-school linebacker in the nation, according to rivals.com, with more than 50 offers from college powerhouse teams.

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Luc and best friend Jeff Vincent are both headed to Florida State.

"When your parents were growing up in haiti did they talk about football?" Glor asked Vincent.

"When they talked about football, they meant soccer," Vincent said. "I didn't know nothing about football until 9th grade."

"A quick learner," Glor said.

"You have to be," Vincent said. "It's a rough sport."

This rough sport follows rough childhoods in many cases.

Jephte Leveille, a junior, lived in Port-au-Prince until he was 7 years old. His parents left the country dreaming of a better life.

"I'd be the first to graduate high school and college," Leveille said.

"And football helps make that happen?" Glor asked.

"Football helps it a lot," Leveille said.

It's already happened for Pierre Garcon, suddenly now the most famous Haitian American playing in the National Football League.

"Haiti, it's where I'm from, it's where my family is from, it's home," the Indianapolis Colts wide receiver said. "Haiti is home."

Garcon carried the Haitian flag following over the New York Jets, paying tribute to a homeland devastated by an earthquake and a game that's changed his life.

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"It's affecting my family now, it's affecting my people and my community," Garcon said. "Football has been a springboard for me to new things and to new life - to a better life."

At Treasure Coast, Ritchy Normil, a fullback, was watched Garcon's success.

"When you see a player like Pierre succeed like he is, for him to be where he's at is, I'm really proud of that," Normil said.

These players have an inherent advantage on the field. Being bilingual in English and Creole, they can quickly confuse opponents.

"It's really good too because it's like they don't know what's coming," Normil said.

By now the NFL has realized what's coming its way: Smart, strong, motivated Haitian Americans removed from a ravaged country but acutely aware of the inspiration they can provide.

"It's a start of something new," Garcon said. "The next great player could be from Haiti, could be a Super Bowl MVP. It's a great thing. It could help a lot of people, you know, it's an opportunity for a new beginning."

Garcon has been raising money for Haiti through his Helping Hands Foundation. He hopes to raise $500,000 so he can distribute food and aid during a personal visit in April.

  • Jeff Glor

    Jeff Glor was named anchor of the Sunday edition of the "CBS Evening News" in January 2012 and Special Correspondent for "CBS This Morning" in November 2011.