Division 2 soccer player shares his incredible journey to the U.S. and NNU (#GoNNUCrusaders)

February 23, 2015

“That day changed my life for the best,” said sophomore nursing major and Division 2 defensive midfield on the soccer team, Bryan Neba. He was playing a pick up soccer game in a park in downtown Boise, Idaho when he saw another player who impressed him. That player was an NNU student-athlete and their conversation led to an impromptu tryout for Bryan. 

Coach Coe Michaelson says of that fortuitous encounter, “Bryan ending up here really is a miracle. We lost a player late and had a need, so when I heard about him I went to watch him play. I think I would define what I saw as great potential and great character. Those were the defining factors that sold us on him.”

This happened two weeks before classes started at NNU in the fall of 2013, and miraculously Bryan was in class and on the field at the school that would become home to him. 

The story doesn’t seem particularly amazing until you learn that just ending up in Idaho was an unlikely coincidence for Bryan who came to the U.S. from Cameroon, Africa in 2010 on a student visa. When plans at his first university fell apart, he spent a couple of years couch-surfing across the country at relatives’ homes, unable to work or support himself, while he waited on a more permanent visa status to be approved. 

Back in Cameroon, Bryan was a student and activist fighting for better treatment and amenities for marginalized Anglophones at his university. It was this social activism that eventually allowed him to receive a permanent status on political asylum in the U.S.

“Only the fittest of the fittest survive in Cameroon,” explains Bryan. “Coming to the U.S. opens up so many opportunities.” Although those opportunities haven’t come easy or without many challenges, Bryan is so grateful for the people he has encountered along the way. “I wouldn’t have survived without the help and support of good people.” 

"I wouldn't have survived without the help and support of good people."

Those good people include his aunt who lives in Boise, Idaho who gave Bryan a place to live when he had few options, Coach Coe Michaelson who saw something special in Bryan and fundraised for scholarships at the last minute to make a way for him to come to NNU. They also include ladies from Southminster Presbyterian Church in Boise who took Bryan under their wing when he arrived in Idaho. 

Bryan says, “I thought, ‘how can I pay back the people of this country for their generosity and the opportunities and they have provided me?’ I considered what Americans value and who they honor and I thought of the military.” He joined the Idaho Army National Guard as a way to show his gratitude to those individuals and the country that took him in. 

Coach Michaelson was one of only a couple of people Bryan corresponded with while at Basic Training. “I look at him as more than a coach. He’s not just a coach; he is a Christian. He is that first. He brings the team together. He shows us how we share the same values even though we look at life from many different perspectives.”

“Bryan is a special person. For me what makes him so unique is that he has a past and perspectives he has developed as a result that give him a true appreciation of the student-athlete experience here at NNU.  No one who knows him doubts that he is genuinely grateful for the opportunities provided to him.  And no one doubts that he will do special things for others with the skills he is developing here in return,” says Coach Michaelson. 

"I wouldn't have been here if it wasn't for soccer, but I'm not here just for soccer. I'm here for the entire experience."

At NNU and as a Division 2 athlete, Bryan is able to follow his passions on all fronts. “I wouldn’t have been here if it wasn’t for soccer, but I’m not here just for soccer. I’m here for the entire experience.” 

That experience includes nursing school. Bryan is in his first year in the program.  “The quality of the education at NNU is amazing. I’m in the best nursing program in the state. It is a privilege to be here.” 

Bryan shares that his interest in nursing stemmed from finding out that his mother had quit nursing school when he was born and was never able to return. “She is so benevolent and caring; she would have been a great nurse. She cared for her kids, cousins and all their friends. She fed dozens from her pot.” 

He got a job at an assisted living facility to see if healthcare was the right field for him. “I found it to be the most fulfilling thing I’ve done,” Bryan says. “I’m excited to hand my mom my diploma when I graduate and show her that her dream didn’t die with my birth but that I’m helping fulfill it.”

Bryan credits NNU for helping him achieve his many goals. The environment and people at NNU have been transformative. “I’ve been to state universities, and they are not like NNU. Everybody is busy feeling like they are God’s gift to the world. At NNU, people care about you and help you succeed. Being here is like something you’d read in a book. It’s a place to develop character. I didn’t even have a desire to change until I came into this environment.” 

Despite the unlikely path that brought him here, Bryan knows he is right where God has orchestrated for him to be. 

“When you are NNU, it’s like being at home. Despite the hectic schedule, I smile going to school these days.”

Hear more of Bryan's story as covered by KBOI Channel 2 News.