It isn't easy being Baltimore native Gino Culotta, a senior linebacker and running back at the International School of Brussels in search of a Division I football scholarship. Every time he approaches a college coach, the conversation goes something like this:

"Hi, I'd like to talk to you about a football scholarship," Culotta says.

"Where are you from?" the coach asks.

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"Where do you go to school?"


"I've never heard of Brussels, Md."

"No. Brussels, Belgium."

The coach pauses.

"They play soccer in Belgium, don't they?" he says.

Culotta smiles. "That's a pretty good paraphrase," he said.

It's a mountain the 6-foot-2, 200 pound Culotta has set out to climb by the time he graduates next spring. He took his first steps up the slope while home this summer, visiting campuses and working out for coaches from the Carolinas to Delaware.

Brussels is not on the travel itinerary of any Division I football program. It is a country known for soccer, lace and tennis players Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin -- not American-style football.

But five years ago, when Culotta's dad, Dominic, was asked by UPS, for which he has worked since he was a student at Poly and later Loyola College, to take his engineering expertise to Brussels, the first thing he thought of was football.

"I have three boys," said the UPS vice president, whose three sons, Dominic, 18, Gino, 16, and Vinny, 15, all play the game. "I told UPS if there was a school there where my sons could play American-style football, I'd take the job."

American football in Brussels?

The International School of Brussels Raiders play in the Department of Defense Dependents Schools league (DoDDS), composed of about 30 teams, most of them affiliated with schools on U.S. military bases around Europe.

As it turns out, Brussels is home to one of just three international schools -- a designation distinct from the institutions that educate children of armed forces personnel -- that play the sport. The other two are in Asia.

At the dining room table at his home in Joppatowne, where the Culottas spend their summers and Christmas holidays, Gino Culotta acknowledged that Brussels is not everyone's first choice for playing American football. After attending a number of coaching combines, including the Offense-Defense Select Camp at Towson University in July, where coaches judged him to be a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision prospect, he has concluded he has just one major disadvantage.