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Steelers' Suisham completes journey to U.S. citizenship

| Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, 9:54 p.m.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Shaun Suisham (middle) is joined by his wife, Erin (left), and daughters Stella, 4, and Sienna, 7, as he takes the Oath of Allegiance at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Field Office in Wilkins with 31 other new citizens.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham gives a speech after taking the Oath of Allegiance at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Field Office in Wilkins Township during a naturalization ceremony on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham receives a kiss from his daughter Sienna, 7, after taking the Oath of Allegiance at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Field Office in Wilkins Township during a naturalization ceremony on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016. Suisham is originally from Canada.

Other than a couple of intentional utterings Wednesday (“pro-cess” in lieu of “process,” for example), Shaun Suisham's Canadian accent has all but vanished.

“Unfortunately, I lost it,” the Ontario-born Steelers kicker said. “Every once in a while — sometimes late at night — it will come back out of me. But for the most part, it's gone.”

Goodbye, a-boot. Hello, yinz.

Sixteen years after he came to the United States and more than a half decade since he became a Pittsburgher, Suisham officially is a U.S. citizen.

The 34-year-old was sworn in as one of the newest Americans on Wednesday during a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field office in Wilkins.

“I have grown to love the United States of America; specifically, Pittsburgh,” Suisham said moments before he and 31 others representing 14 nations officially culminated the years-long process and proudly earned their citizenship papers. “And it has become our home.

“I have been here for my entire adult life, and the United States has provided me and my family with wonderful opportunity. And I'm extremely grateful for that.”

Born and raised in Wallaceburg, Ontario, about a 90-minute drive from Detroit, Suisham noted he is proud of his Canadian roots. He came to Bowling Green just shy of his 18th birthday in 2000 on a scholarship to kick.

Suisham met his future wife, Erin, soon after, and two daughters have joined his life since he entered the NFL in 2005. The youngest, Stella, was born a month after he signed with the Steelers in 2010.

“I couldn't stand the thought of ever being separated for any reason from my girls,” Suisham said, “and that was the catalyst for going through this.”

The process — one that couldn't legally begin until three years after he married Erin — can be laborious.

“There is an application, and the person goes through several background checks for security and for naturalization,” said Pittsburgh USCIS field office director Michael Horvath, who administered the Oath of Allegiance. “They will be interviewed on their application, and they also have to take American history, civics and English tests.

“It is a very special thing; people study hard for it and the majority of people do pass.”

Erin said she would quiz Shaun at the dinner table.

“I'm kind of ashamed to admit he might know more than I do right now,” Erin, an Ohio native, said with a smile.

Erin said Shaun would send quiz questions to one of his best friends on the Steelers, long snapper Greg Warren.

Suisham's daughters led the Pledge of Allegiance, which joined the oath, the playing of the National Anthem, a video message from President Obama and a one-by-one presentation of the citizenship certificate as part of the hour-long ceremony.

A highlight for the 31 other new citizens was a 5-minute speech from Suisham, who spoke about his immigration experience and family and included inspirational messages.

“Let us not be satisfied with being mediocre,” he said.

Afterward, several fellow new U.S. citizens, friends and family members posed for photos with Suisham.

“(The speech) was really a cool moment of reflection of the past 15 years and what it has meant to me,” Suisham said. “It is pretty cool to see it on paper, and it's been an awesome journey. I'm looking forward to continuing it.”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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