MATTHEWS, N.C. -- Playoffs for Butler High School’s varsity soccer team begins Wednesday night and one of the team’s players is over 1,400 miles away from home.
Born in Puerto Rico, 16-year-old Nico Cruz, was living with his mother when Hurricanes Irma and Maria slammed the island in September, causing catastrophic damage.
“I was trying to get out from the island after the hurricane,” Nico said. “But they canceled my flight like three or four times.”
The teenager said his neighborhood flooded and his school had no electricity or running water.
“After the hurricane, people started to get hungry. I went three days without eating,” Nico said. “There was no energy, no water, no food. The supermarkets were without food, without water.”
The 16-year-old was forced to make a difficult decision.
“It was kind of hard leaving my island," Nico said. "I thought I didn't want to go but I felt like it was necessary. But you know I'm leaving my mom, my grandparents. Everything is there."
After several canceled flights, Nico’s father and stepmom, who live in the Charlotte area, were finally able to get the teen on a plane out of Puerto Rico and onto the soccer field at Butler High School.
“I love the sport,” says Nico. “It's my life... I used to play for the national team of Puerto Rico."