Cairo Santos has traversed unique path from Brazil to Bears

Santos has found his fit with the Bears, one of six organizations he has played for in his career.
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By 670 The Score

(670 The Score) Cairo Santos arrived to the United States from Brazil as a teenager taking part in an exchange program. His hope was to grow as a soccer player while living with a host family in northeast Florida.

But one day, the 15-year-old Santos saw his host brother hold down a football. He was asked to kick it, so Santos lined up and booted the ball.

"I kicked it four houses down," Santos recalled. "They said it went 60 yards approximately. I was like, 'Was that good?'"

That was how Santos, now a 28-year-old kicker for the Bears, was introduced to the game of American football and found his future profession. He later tried out for the St. Joseph's Academy team, where he hit a 50-yard field goal and earned a spot on the roster before even learning the rules of football.

Santos then went out and purchased a copy of Madden NFL 07 for Xbox so he could discover more about this new game. It took off for him.

"Football was a path where the door just started to open," Santos said.

On Wednesday, Santos was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week after hitting all three of his field-goal attempts during the Bears' 23-16 win against the Panthers on Sunday. Santos' work included a career-long 55-yard field goal, one he admittedly didn't realize was from that distance until running out to the field and seeing where the ball was spotted.

The recognition means something to Santos, who has bounced between six organizations during the course of his career, which included a previous stop in Chicago for two games in the 2017 season. The Bears have struggled to solidify their kicking position since releasing Robbie Gould just before the 2016 regular season. Four years later, Santos may be their solution.

Santos' present opportunity with the Bears came after incumbent kicker Eddy Pineiro suffered a groin injury in August. Santos is 10-of-12 on field-goal attempts and 12-of-12 on extra-point attempts six games. Santos was 29-of-33 on field-goal attempts over three years with the Chiefs from 2014-'16 before injuries took their toll.

Santos found his form again with Chicago by reviewing his kicks from Kansas City and recreating his technique from those three seasons. It has paid off so far.

"His confidence is high and I really like where he’s at," Bears special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said of Santos.

Pineiro has been making progress with his groin injury but may land on the Bears' practice squad once he's deemed healthy. Santos has earned the right to remain as Chicago's kicker.

The ultimate test for Santos will be how he handles kicking in the difficult conditions of Chicago now that autumn has arrived and winter awaits. He proved capable at Halas Hall last week, when the gusts in Lake Forest reached 40 miles per hour and blew the goal posts sideways on a practice field. Members of the Bears' equipment staff had to tie ropes to the uprights and hold on tight in order for Santos to kick. He booted eight kicks through the goal posts.

Santos has learned well by now: That's good. But as his unique story has taken him from Brazil to Chicago -- by way of northeast Florida, Kansas City, Los Angeles and several other stops -- he isn't looking too far ahead.

"Fate will take care of itself," Santos said.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.