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Pumas from abroad see Kitsap County a little differently
As far as appearances are concerned, there’s not much to distinguish Kitsap Puma David Gray from his American teammates. He’s young, athletically built, has spiky hair and plays with confidence.
But when he opens his mouth and that Scottish brogue comes rolling out, it’s clear Gray is not from around here.
Gray, 21, is one of a trio of Pumas new to the team this year who hails from abroad. He grew up just outside Glasgow, in East Kilbride, Scotland, and came to Bremerton in early May.
“As soon as I knew I was coming here, I was excited to come,” he said. “I just came out and promised myself I’d enjoy every minute of it. There’s a lot more opportunity here, especially in soccer.”
Gray has enjoyed experiencing first hand a culture he’d previously only viewed from afar. So far, America has lived up to his expectations.
“The way I explained it to everybody when I went back home was that it was exactly like all the TV shows I’d seen,” he said.
Joining Gray on the team this year are Britain’s Greg Miley and former Bahamian national player Cameron Hepple. Each has his own perspective on Kitsap, the players’ new home away from home.
For Hepple, 22, the contrasts between the Bahamas and the Northwest are stark.
“It was weird coming up here, and even now, it’s kind of cold for me,” said Hepple, who arrived in March. “I’m still trying to adjust to the rain and all that.”
Hepple’s college days were spent at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, which prepared him less for rain and more for cool weather.
“The weather is extreme,” he said of Ohio. “It was a hard first semester, just because of the snow. It was so cold. I feel like after that I could go through anything.”
The weather in Kitsap wasn’t much of a change from what Miley, a London native, was used to. The skies back home are just as fickle as they are here.
“The weather’s kind of similar,” said Miley, 22. “When it’s nice, it’s nice. But you can never tell.”
Moving to American suburbia from a packed European metropolis, known for its liveliness, culture and diversity, has had an effect on Miley. It can be tough to find that joie de vivre in a small town.
“I quite like having loads of stuff to do to fill the days,” Miley said. “Back home everything is quite condensed. It’s just really busy. (Bremerton) is a lot smaller than what I’m used to.”
But despite the differences, Miley is embracing his new digs.
“I really enjoy it,” he said. “It’s a nice place to be. The scenery’s great. It’s kind of nice to get away to somewhere different that you’re not used to.”
Weather and new activities are things all three players can adjust to in time. The toughest part for each is being away from family and friends.
“All my friends are back home from university,” Hepple said. “Even now, when I listen to music and stuff, I think about what I’d be doing back home.”
Gray, who connected with the team through assistant coach James Ritchie, also a Scotland native, is taking his move in stride.
“You miss your family and my girlfriend and stuff,” he said. “But there wasn’t a lot happening for me in Scotland, so this was a major breath of fresh air.”
Even so, Miley’s words ring true for all the Pumas players transplanted from their birthplace to play soccer.
“Home is always home,” he said.