High-Flying Cuban Defector First Becomes Volleyball Star, Then Proud American Resident

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Last year at this time, we introduced you to Grand View volleyball phenom Felix Chapman. Chapman defected from Cuba for a better life in the United States.

If Chapman can lead the Grand View Vikings to another national title, that will be the second best thing to happen to him in the past week.

Chapman is a nightmare for opposing teams. At 6 feet 8 inches tall, Chapman plays the game with fire and emotion, as if every point might be his last.

"The emotion is when you love to play volleyball. I've been playing for 14 years," said Chapman.

"He's a perfectionist. He wants to work hard. He wants to do his best to make the team better," said Grand View Head Coach Donan Cruz.

Chapman fled Cuba in 2015 and spent two years in Puerto Rico before making the move to Des Moines.

"I haven't seen my family in four years," said Chapman.

"He made a huge sacrifice leaving his home country in coming to the U.S. Lots of risk and nothing was guaranteed," Cruz said.

"Right now, everything in my life has been a challenge. I think right now I have to get the opportunity. I'm the kind of person if I get a simple opportunity, I'm going for it," said Chapman.

That door of opportunity has opened. Just last week Chapman was granted permanent residency from the U.S. government.

"I remember my lawyer called at 8 a.m. I didn't answer, I was sleeping, so she left me a voice message. When I heard that I said 'whoa.' I was in shock, running around the room, excited. The day was good. The emotion was feeling what I've been through. I feel great right now," said Chapman.

Becoming a permanent resident is the next step to ultimately becoming a U.S. citizen.

"For him to get that news is pretty special for us because he can pursue some different dreams. Doors have opened up for him and his family," Cruz said.

"Right now I feel like I can do more than what I was doing. I am available to work, to help people, to visit my family, to fly. Before I didn`t have the opportunity. That was a big step for me. Right now I'm really glad I'm here, really glad the people that have helped me," said Chapman.

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