Growing up in Athens, Greece, his sporting plate overflowed with swimming, soccer, tennis, basketball, track and field, judo and water polo, which Karlaftis fast-tracked as a young teen. Karlaftis fit in every arena.
He has a confluence of gifts -- size, speed, confidence and drive -- that allowed him to pick any athletic endeavour and excel. But Karlaftis ultimately pivoted away from all those sports and toward one that rarely, if ever, came up during his childhood, writes ESPN.
"[Football] was perceived as very dangerous, barbaric," he recalled. "A little bit of fear tactics for us not to play."
His father, Matt, an accomplished athlete in Greece who competed in track and field at the University of Miami, hoped Karlaftis and his two brothers would never participate in football. Matt's only brush with the sport had led to a traumatic head injury and surgery.
"I was scared, I never really wanted to play growing up, you know, and [in Greece], it's not really an issue," Karlaftis said.
But when Matt died on June 4, 2014, George's life and athletic outlook forever changed. He moved to the United States, near his mother's family in West Lafayette, Indiana, along with his mother and siblings. He had to process the trauma of his father's death while beginning school in a different language and making new friends.
His athletic talent became a way to fit in. After initial hesitation, Karlaftis began playing a distinctly American sport and learned to love football as he blossomed into a star defensive lineman at Purdue.
Karlaftis, a rookie defensive end for the Kansas City Chiefs, is just getting started. His position is known for rushing the passer and sacking quarterbacks.
An emerging fan favourite, Karlaftis is unexpectedly making his name as a rookie. Spectators are euphoric as he tramples opposing offensive linemen, tackles running backs behind the line of scrimmage, and pressures the other team’s quarterback.
Is Karlaftis the Next Greek Freak?
The National Basketball Association (NBA) has its Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. Now, NFL may have its emerging Greek Freak II in Karlaftis.