David Muhima loves football but his hero is not on the gridiron.
It's his mom Franßoise, a brave single mother who escaped with her five children from Kinshasha, Congo eight years ago. War and conflict raged around them, so the family fled to start a new life.
"My mom is very amazing, she is my role model. I really appreciate everything she does and everything she keeps doing," Muhima, an offensive lineman/linebacker on the Daniel McIntyre Maroons high school football team, said of Franßoise who works for Pinnacle Staffing while going to school to learn English.
"What she did was very courageous. To do that, you have to have a very strong heart, strong will. The love she keeps giving and the care she gives us, it's unbelievable."
David, 17, has lived in Winnipeg for the past four years with his family which includes older brother Benedict, 19 and sisters Patricia, 21, Joelle, 15, and Gabriella, 8.
The family, whose first language is French, left nearly everything they owned when they boarded a bus and moved first to Kampala, Uganda. They lived there for four years before coming to Canada. Muhima remembers a 13-hour plane ride from Amsterdam before the family settled in Winnipeg.
"My mom really believes in education and she knew we could get a good education in Canada and that it is free. In Uganda, school is not free," Muhima said. "She wanted to make life easy for us so (we needed to) get an education to get ahead. She doesn't want us to go through what she went through."
In Uganda, Muhima's mom and older sister worked to provide for the family, which lived in a two-room house.
Muhima said his family feels safe in Winnipeg.
"It's a good feeling. Where we came from, what we had to go through, it's so good for us to not worry about who's going to come in, knock the door down and take stuff or hurt us," he said.
"Here we have good food, security and opportunities here. We've been very thankful for what we've been given and every day, we try to appreciate what we have."
That's where football comes in as David counts the game among his blessings.
He first played football in grade 10 at Daniel Mac when his brother Ben was on the team. In 2010, the brothers helped Daniel Mac win its first playoff game since 1987. That year, David, playing fullback, blocked for his brother, a Grade 12 running back.
"Football is a special game, the relationships you build, the love you have for your teammates, the respect you have for your team and your opponents, it's a wonderful sport," said Muhima, named a team captain in his Grade 12 season in 2011.
"That was a great honour for me to be a captain. I know when I was a rookie, I looked up to the captains and I knew that the rookies would look up to me. So I worked even harder to make sure, maybe, when they become veterans, they will remember me and say, 'oh, I want to be like him.'"
David, who will graduate this spring, is excited about his future in Winnipeg. He hopes to go to the University of Manitoba and plans to try out for the Winnipeg Rifles junior football team this fall.
"I feel really blessed and thankful that our family was able to stay together. It's the love we have for each other," he said.