It is very common for children to have dreams of one day being a professional athlete. The sad reality for most, however, is that the dream is just that: a dream. But for some Eastern athletes, that dream doesn’t fade and actually becomes a reality.
For former Eastern Washington football players Raul Vijil and Harrison Nikolao, the Spokane Shock has helped that dream come true.
“It’s been a blessing,” said Nikolao, an offensive and defensive lineman for the Shock. “Throughout my life I knew this is what I was born to do and I just love it.”
In his first year with the undefeated Shock, Nikolao plays an important role in the Shock defense. Nikolao, who graduated from Eastern Washington in March of 2007, is one of three starting linemen for the Shock. In the offensively-weighted Arena Football League, Nikolao has had to adjust. The adjustment, however, has come easier for him due to his experience at Eastern.
“Eastern did a great job in preparing me,” he said. “I believe that Eastern opened more doors for me. Now that I’m with the Shock, even more doors are open.”
Eastern also helped prepare Vijil, a Shock wide receiver and return specialist.
“Eastern taught me that you need to work hard to have success at this level,” said Vijil.
Vijil added that as he’s progressed through the different levels of football, he’s had to adjust to the different speeds of the game as well as the work ethic that comes with playing at higher levels.
Being arguably the best Spokane Shock player, Vijil, in his third season with the team, has made the adjustments very well. Vijil leads the Shock in receiving with 624 yards and 17 touchdowns in the team’s first seven games.
He also provides many sparks on special teams as the kick returner. This year, he is averaging over 20 yards per return, which is almost half the length of the arena football field.
Despite his success, Vijil said he still has to work hard to be successful.”In high school, you just kind of dink around. When you get to college, you put in that hard work, that time. It’s more of a job. And at this level, the competition is higher. It’s quicker, more fast-paced,” he added.
Playing with the Shock has many benefits, but one that stands out is that they’re playing high-caliber football in the same area as their collegiate years.
“I’m just 20 miles from Eastern, so it’s nice to have that hometown feel,” Vijil said.
For Nikolao, playing in Spokane is even more special.
“This is where I found my soulmate, my wife,” he said. “And the fans out here are the most loving fans. I love it.”
Playing professional football in front of familiar fans has been a dream come true for the two former Eagles. As their careers progress, the dream of getting to the next level will not fade, it will only encourage the players to work harder and enjoy their amazing ride.