A father’s conversation leads to 13000 hours of no regrets
Story by Tony Dobies
Photos by Raymond Thompson
Two years into Fernando Said’s West Virginia University career, he thought about leaving.
Sure, he liked it here. He loved it.
But he missed home. His family was going through tough times back in Maryland, and many of his closest friends from his first year at WVU had transferred.
“To a point, I had no friends that I really felt close with,” he said. “I didn’t want to be by myself. It was boring.”
He had a decision to make. And, in the end, it was a conversation with his dad that made all the difference.
“He told me not to quit, not to make this a habit,” Said recalled from his sophomore year. “I prayed about it and tried to see some signs. Little by little, I was just convinced that I had to stay and that was the right place for me.
“I felt like the opportunity was endless here. When I would look at stuff back home, a lot of my friends were doing the same things. I’ve never just wanted to be stuck in one place.”
Soon after he made the decision to stay at WVU and continue to study sport and exercise psychology, two of his friends approached him about joining the women’s basketball team’s practice squad. He said yes.
He’s been a member of the practice squad for the last two years. During that time, he was an instrumental member of the program that has gone to three straight NCAA tournaments and sixth in seven years. He, and some of his closest friends on the practice squad, would take part in every one of the women’s team’s practices and even spend individual workouts with the players, as well.
“That experience alone made me realize that I was so happy I stayed here. It was an awesome experience,” he said. “I met people who were just as passionate about sports as I was and helped me be around a team. I always wanted to be around a team if I couldn’t play on one.”
Said is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. His family moved to the United States in 1994 when he was 4 so that he and his younger brothers could get a better education. After stops in New York City and New Jersey, his family settled in the Baltimore area, where his grandma lived.
He hasn’t been back to Argentina since, though he does intend to some day. He doesn’t even remember much from there, either.
The first few years in the States were tough. His parents, who were well off in Argentina, took jobs as janitors, and Said began school. He wasn’t comfortable speaking English at the time, so he sat in his classes and stared out the window. Eventually, he’d take some classes to help him adjust.
By that point, he had already begun participating in sports. He played soccer, because that’s what he grew up on, as it was the most popular sport in Argentina.
“Everyone loved me and my brother, because we were pretty good at soccer. They wanted us to be on their rec league teams,” he said.
When his friends who played soccer started to take up football, he did, too. And he loved it even more than he enjoyed soccer.
“I knew I was different, but all that mattered to them was sports. We had the same interests,” he said.
In addition, Said’s family is very faithful. His father is a pastor at a local church, so it allowed the family to find comfort early on in its new surrounding.
He played football through high school but realized as a senior that it would be best to hang up the cleats and pursue a professional career in something else.
“A bunch of my friends were going on to play football at big schools, and I wanted to be just like that. I wanted to be a (Division 1) athlete,” he said. “I had to be realistic and know that I’m not going to go to the NFL. As much as it killed me, I knew that I had to focus on school.”
Growing up in Maryland, he loved the passion he saw that WVU had for its sports teams and decided that it was the place to be. He knew he would have many more opportunities in Morgantown than he would at a smaller school or junior college.
I met people who were just as passionate about sports as I was and helped me be around a team.
He also participated in the Adventure WV program at WVU prior to coming to campus for his first semester. Said has kept a job at the Student Rec Center for four years and has interned at a law firm back home for three years.
He spends 28 hours reading per week, he said, and loves to read about success stories. His favorite book is “A Shark Never Sleeps” by Drew Rosenhaus.
Said will take a year off after graduation before he takes on law school. His goal is to become a lawyer with a focus on sports, which would lead him to a career as an agent or a vice president of a sports team.
“I want to help athletes be smarter with their money,” he said. “That’s their livelihood. I always felt like I could help them be more financially stable.”