From Finland to La Crosse; Vasanoja brothers find a home with UW - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

From Finland to La Crosse; Vasanoja brothers find a home with UW-L football team

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La Crosse, WI (WXOW) -

Oliver and Walter Vasanoja came a long way to La Crosse, 4,186 miles to be exact from their hometown of Vaasa, Finland.

But from a young age football was in their blood... 

" We both started playing at the same time at a really young age. We started playing flag football and then we moved to junior football and then played with the men's team but we have as many years of playing experience each," said Oliver, who's the starting center for the Eagles.

After graduating high school, all Finnish men must enroll in the military.  It can be anywhere from 6 to 12 months and for Oliver he got admitted to UW-La Crosse while he was there.

"When I get out, I had eight months to really prepare my body for college football so I had to regain some weight. Obviously I was still in really good shape from that, but I had to prepare my body differently for football."

"Coach McGlenn did a wonder job via email via telephone to sell La Crosse and our community to them and those two brothers just love it here," UW-L head coach Mike Schmidt.

"We weren't really planning on coming to the same place, but UW-La Crosse was at the top of my list just because Coach (Andrew) McGlenn was really so helpful and then when Walter came here he started telling me what a great experience he had in spring ball and spring conditioning and that really solidified it for me," Oliver said.

When it came to the game of football they both could definitely tell a difference.

"It's faster. It's definitely faster. Players are smarter. They have better technique you just can't afford simple mistakes," Walter said.

" I think it was a big jump, but those two they are two of our hardest workers. They are two of our best kids to be honest with you. They are roommates, they share a room together off campus. They are just two wonderful guys that I don't think it affected them that much," Schmidt said.

With any foreign student, it takes a little while to get acclimated... 

"I called our quarterback Tarek Yaeggi and he could barley understand what I was saying, and he thought I was being awkward, but I just hadn't spoken English for like two months, so I think I sounded pretty awkward," Oliver said.

Oliver and Walter know that it's time to get serious now as the Eagles are undefeated and in first place in the conference.

"Were going into every game to win and we know 4-0 or 5-0, that's not going to be good enough," said Oliver.

 "It means everything to me. I am just very grateful for this opportunity. I am basically living my dream right now," said Walter.

The Eagles host UW-Eau Claire this Saturday in a game you can see on WXOW 19 starting at 11 AM.

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