ORMOND BEACH -- Gloria Postell appears out of the short hallway with a plaque in her hand."You still got that?" asks her youngest son, Seabreeze High's Xavier Lee.
"Of course," she says.The plaque features a picture of Willie Lee. He was called "Foots" back in his NFL days, 25 years ago now. The conversation is centered around what normally might be an easy question: Where does Xavier Lee's talent come from?
"I don't know," says the talented 17-year-old quarterback, who is beginning the transition from high school all-star to collegiate can't-miss.
But the question actually isn't too difficult. The answer is in front of him, right there on display in the modest two-bedroom apartment.
It's in Postell's hand, the photograph. And it's Postell, the tireless mother who raised two promising athletes alone. And it's her other son, 20-year-old Anthony Kelly, sitting on a couch opposite Lee. They all played a part.
Xavier Lee's photograph was in Sports Illustrated this month. He has his pick of colleges that are begging him to play quarterback. And he's already won countless awards, including this latest one: Florida's representative on the 85th annual Orlando Sentinel All-Southern football team.
He was born an athlete. His father knew it when Lee was a tough toddler who didn't cry when he fell down and would carry gallon jugs of milk in either hand without a grimace.
His friends knew it when they were in grade school, and Lee first threw a football. It sailed over their heads and into a fence several yards away.
And his high school teammates knew it when he accepted that bet and threw a pass more than 50 yards -- from his knees.
"There aren't a whole lot like him out there," says Marc Beach, Lee's coach at Seabreeze.
If anyone still needs a reminder, watch some game tape. Notice how when the receivers make a catch and jog back to the huddle, they're shaking the pain out of their arms or rubbing the aches off their chests.
Yeah, he was born an athlete. His father was a defensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1976 and '77, and his mother ran track at Seabreeze. The genes were there, but they were cultivated in the ensuing years. The young couple didn't marry, and Postell raised Lee and Kelly in the same cul-de-sac apartment they live in today.
The two brothers always have had a special bond. "His blood runs through my veins, and my blood is in his veins," Kelly says. "There's nothing closer than that."
The pair would throw the football out front until they couldn't see the ball's white laces in the night sky. Then they'd come indoors and shuffle off to their bedroom. Though they had bunk beds, the brothers chose to sleep in the same bed until they hit their teen years. They'd lie there and talk about someday -- that day when they're playing college ball together or playing on the same NFL team.
"They're closer than any two people I know," says Eddie Taylor, Lee's close friend since middle school. "Anthony is more than a friend to Xavier. He's more than a brother. It's like, he leads [Xavier]. If he doesn't want him doing something, he'll tell him. If he doesn't want him at a certain party or whatever, he'll tell him."
Willie Lee had given Xavier the genes, but Xavier said it was those years throwing with his brother in the cul-de-sac that really developed his quarterback skills.
The father, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, sees his son during the summers and on holidays. He tried to get to as many Seabreeze games as possible and says he's always astounded at what his son can do on the field.
"Every day I'm telling his mother how it seems like he grew up so fast," Willie Lee says. "The times I did spend were fun. He was little then. Now, he's gotten so big, and so much stuff is going on. I wish I was there more, but he knows how it is. I didn't throw the ball enough, didn't play basketball enough. That separation of father and son is rough. but the connection is still strong. The time we do spend together, I feel, is special."
It's Gloria who has been there every day. She learned about football and was a familiar face in the stands, first cheering on Kelly and then Lee.
"Next year, both my boys will be gone," says Gloria, 39, who was raised by a single mother herself. "I don't know what I'm going to do. I've never been in this house all alone."
It wasn't always easy for her, but Lee and Kelly never really noticed the struggle.
"It wasn't until very recently that I really started thinking about it," Kelly says. "I don't know how she did it. We always had whatever we needed. We had stuff at Christmas and everything."
Lee was just a sophomore -- already 6 feet 4 and 195 pounds -- when Beach, then a first-year head coach, appointed him starting quarterback. In Lee's first game, he threw for 317 yards and four touchdowns. After a few weeks, he was shattering Volusia County records, throwing for more than 400 yards in one game. He led the state in passing that year, and by his junior season, he was extending his legend, shattering Central Florida records.
This year, as a senior, he started setting state records -- virtually every one associated with a quarterback. He passed for 3,183 yards and 37 touchdowns. For his career, he completed 544 of 993 attempts for 9,083 yards and 98 touchdowns. He also rushed for 29 touchdowns.
Lee is currently one of the most-recruited quarterbacks in the country. He admittedly avoids the gym, but at 6 feet 4 and 220 pounds, he's already built like a college quarterback. Most expect him to sign with Florida State this spring, the same school his brother, Kelly, hopes to attend. (Kelly signed with the Seminoles last year but has been attending junior college in Mississippi to qualify academically.)
"I'm excited about whatever's next," says Lee, his braided black hair stretching toward his shoulders. "Football is what I like to do, and I'm glad I'll be able to keep doing it."
85TH ANNIVERSARYALL-SOUTHERN FOOTBALL 2003State PlayerAlabama QB John Parker WilsonArkansas FB Peyton HillisFlorida QB Xavier LeeGeorgia RB Darius WalkerKentucky QB Brian BrohmLouisiana RB Chris MarkeyMississippi LB Garry PackNorth Carolina RB Andre BrownSouth Carolina OL Leon HartTennessee DL Corey MillsTexas RB Adrian PetersonVirginia QB Sean Glennon
Brian Brohm(Kentucky)Chris Markey(Louisiana)Andre Brown(North Carolina)Corey Mills(Tennessee)Sean Glennon(Virginia)Garry Pack(Mississippi)Leon Hart(South Carolina)Andrian Peterson(Texas)Peyton Hillis(Arkansas)Darius Walker(Georgia)Xavier Lee(Florida)John Parker Wilson
(Alabama)The 85th All-Southern football team is a compilation of the best players in 12 Southern states. The players are being recognized for their play on the field; thus, this is not necessarily a "top prospects" list. Production, not potential, is the key to the selection process. The top players in the 12 Southern states selected by the Orlando Sentinel's panel of experts:
Player High school Ht. / wt. College choicesQB John Parker Wilson Hoover (Ala.) High 6-2 / 180 Alabama, Clemson, Ole Miss, Tenn., baseballFB Peyton Hillis Conway (Ark.) High 6-1 / 244 Arkansas commitmentQB Xavier Lee Daytona Beach Seabreeze 6-4 / 220 Auburn, FSU, Ohio State, Syracuse, TexasRB Darius Walker Buford (Ga.) High 5-11 / 195 Ark., Ga. Tech, Notre Dame, Stanford, USCQB Brian Brohm Louisville (Ky.) Trinity 6-4 / 205 Kentucky, L'ville, ND, Tenn.RB Chris Markey New Orleans Jesuit 5-11 / 170 Colo., Miss St., Southern Miss, Tulane, UCLALB Garry Pack Hattiesburg (Miss.) Oak Grove 6-1 / 220 FSU, Ole Miss, Tenn.RB Andre Brown Greenville (N.C.) Rose 6-2 / 210 Miami, NC State, Virginia, West VirginiaOL Leon Hart Columbia (S.C.) Spring Valley 6-5 / 290 Auburn, Ohio State, South Carolina, VirginiaDL Corey Mills Memphis (Tenn.) Christian 6-5 / 260 Michigan, Ole Brothers Miss, Tenn.Adrian Peterson Palestine (Texas) High 6-0 / 205 Ark., Miami, Okla., Texas, USCQB Sean Glennon Chantilly (Va.) Westfield 6-4 / 190 Virginia Tech commitment
OTHER STATE-BY-STATE SELECTIONS
ALABAMA High school Ht. / wt. College choiceQB Joe Craddock Birmingham Briarwood 5-11 / 170 Middle Tennessee commitmentDL Curtis Dawson Hoover High 6-1 / 255 Alabama commitmentQB Chris Nickson Brundidge Pike Co. 6-1 / 190 Louisville, Miss. St., Southern Miss, UAB, VandyATH Patrick White Daphne High 6-1 / 180 Alabama, Auburn, LSU Honorable mention: DT Justin Britt, Cullman High, 6-4/260 (Alabama commitment); DL David Brown, Madison Bob Jones, 6-3/255 (Georgia Tech commitment); DB Simeon Castille, Birmingham Briarwood, 6-1/180 (Alabama commitment); RB Markus Manson, Tuscaloosa Hillcrest, 6-0/190 (Florida commitment); G B.J. Stabler, Grove Hill Clarke Co., 6-4/290 (Alabama commitment); WR Nikita Stover, Hartselle High, 6-1/190 (Alabama commitment).
ARKANSAS High school Ht. / wt. College choiceDT Freddie Barnett Texarkana High 6-1 / 265 Arkansas commitmentLB Fred Fairchild Little Rock Central 6-2 / 195 Arkansas, Arkansas StateG Brett Helms Stuttgart High 6-2 / 300 LSU commitmentDE Antwain Robinson Little Rock Central 6-1 / 222 Underclassman Honorable mention: DT Fred Bledsoe, Little Rock Central, 6-3/285 (Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee); ATH Stephen Green, Little Rock Pulaski Academy, 5-11/180 (Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina); WR Slick Shelley, Fort Smith Southside, 6-3/185 (underclassman); RB Tracey Stiger, Russellville High, 5-7/151 (junior college likely); FS Kevin Thornton, Little Rock Central, 5-11/175 (underclasssman); ATH Woody Wilson, Fayetteville High, 6-0/180 (committed to Arkansas).
FLORIDA High school Ht. / wt. College choiceDB Lovon Ponder Miami Pace 6-1 / 190 Georgia, Miami, NC State, OklahomaLB Keith Rivers Lake Mary 6-3 / 215 Florida, FSU, Georgia, USCRB Maurice Wells Jacksonville Sandalwood 5-11 / 185 UnderclassmanLB Willie Williams Miami Carol City 6-2 / 225 Auburn, FSU, MiamiHonorable mention: WR Xavier Carter, Palm Bay, 6-3/195 (Florida, FSU, LSU, Miami); ATH John Dunlap, Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna, 6-3/215 (Florida, Miami, NC State); G Jacob Griffin, Seffner Armwood, 6-4/290 (Florida, FSU); QB Brent Schaeffer, Deerfield Beach, 6-3/200 (Kansas State, NC State, Tennessee, USF); RB Bobby Washington, Miami Killian, 6-0/200 (Miami commitment); QB Drew Weatherford, Land O' Lakes, 6-4/205 (FSU commitment).
GEORGIA High school Ht. / wt. College choiceRB Thomas Brown Tucker High 5-10 / 185 Georgia commitment\ WR Calvin Johnson Tyrone Sandy Creek 6-4 / 210 Georgia, Georgia TechLB Josh Johnson Stone Mountain Stephenson 6-2 / 225 Miami commitmentLB Jae Thaxton Hartwell Hart Co. 6-3 / 220 Clemson, FSU, Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame Honorable mention:OT Courtney Abbott, Atlanta Westlake, 6-9/335 (FSU commitment);ATH Alonzo Bryant, Fort Valley Peach Co., 6-2/185 (Georgia commitment);WR Demiko Goodman, Newnan High, 6-4/185 (FSU, Georgia);DL Charles Johnson, Hawkinsville High, 6-3/240 (Georgia commitment);DT Eric McClendon, Vidalia High, 6-5/288 (Auburn, FSU, Georgia, LSU, Miami);ATH Brandon Miller, Colquitt Miller Co., 6-4/218 (Alabama, Auburn, FSU, Georgia, Georgia Tech).
KENTUCKY High school Ht. / wt. College choiceRB Joe Casey Paducah Tilghman 6-1 / 215 Kentucky commitmentQB Andy Clark Louisville Seneca 6-1 / 180 Undecided, may sign baseballWR Lonnell Dewalt Bowling Green Warren Central 6-6 / 215 Kentucky, Louisville, may play basketballQB Cole Draughn Somerset Pulaski Co. 6-1 / 225 Clemson, Kansas St., Kentucky, Louisville, W. Va. Honorable mention:\ LB Dan Bick, Louisville St. Xavier, 6-1/203, (Purdue commitment);OL Micah Jones, Mayfield High, 6-4/325 (Kentucky commitment);RB Craig Lanham, Owensboro Catholic, 5-10/190 (Kentucky, Louisville, Western Kentucky); WR Chris Lofton, Maysville Mason Co., 6-3/190 (likely to play basketball);ATH Brandon Smith, Danville Boyle Co., 6-1/181 (underclassman);QB Chris Todd, Elizabethtown High, 6-3/190 (underclassman).
LOUISIANA High school Ht. / wt. College choiceDT Glenn Dorsey Gonzales East Ascension 6-2/ 295 LSU commitmentRB Marcus Green Bastrop High 5-11 / 165 UnderclassmanQB Ryan Perrilloux Reserve East St. John 6-3 / 210 UnderclassmanLB Luke Sanders West Monroe 6-4 / 225 Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Okla., Texas A&MHonorable mention:LB Brenton Burkhalter, Baton Rouge Parkview Baptist, 6-0/225 (La.-Lafayette, La.-Monroe, Louisiana Tech);WR Early Doucet, St. Martinsville High, 6-1/207 (LSU, Miami);RB Fernando Hurtado, Sterlington High, 5-9/175 (La.-Lafayette, La.-Monroe, Louisiana Tech);DL Tyson Jackson, Edgard West St. John, 6-5/270 (LSU commitment);QB Brandon Landers, Carroll High, 6-1/190 (Grambling commitment);RB Joe Simon, Abbeville Vermilion Catholic, 5-11/210 (La.-Lafayette, La.-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, McNeese State).
MISSISSIPPI High school Ht. / wt. College choiceQB Blake Barnes Baldwyn High 6-3 / 215 Georgia commitmentATH Greg Hinds Southaven High 6-1 / 220 Auburn, Mississippi StateQB Derek Pegues Batesville South Panola 6-0 / 180 UnderclassmanDT Jerell Powe Waynesboro Wayne Co. 6-3 / 320 UnderclassmanHonorable mention: RB Ken Cox, Cleveland High, 5-10/180 (undecided); LB Steve Gandy, Waynesboro Wayne Co., 6-1/190 (Alabama, Arizona State, Auburn, Ole Miss); RB Lavarus Giles, Benoit Ray Brooks, 6-1/205 (Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi St., Southern Miss); RB Marcus Griffin, Batesville South Panola, 6-0/210, (underclassman); CB Terrell Jackson, Puckett High, 5-11/185 (Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Southern Miss); OL Lance Lee, Oxford High, 6-5/270 (Ole Miss commitment).
NORTH CAROLINA High school Ht. / wt. College choiceS Jamar Adams Charlotte Butler 6-2 / 210 Michigan commitment LB Chase Bullock Durham Northern 6-3 / 215 Maryland commitmentK Tyler Lewis Albemarle High 6-2 / 225 NC State commitmentDT DeMario Pressley Greensboro Dudley 6-4 / 290 FSU, North Carolina, NC State, Okla. St., VirginiaHonorable mention: RB George Bell, Fayetteville Jack Britt, 5-11/225 (Virginia Tech commitment); RB Jamaal Edwards, Greensboro Dudley, 6-0/200 (FSU commitment); CB Trimane Goddard, Robersonville Roanoke, 5-11/180 (FSU, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia); DT Marque Hall, Marshville Forest Hills, 6-5/300 (North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia Tech); RB Andrew Pearman, Charlotte Providence, 5-9/165 (Virginia commitment); DE Hilee Taylor, Laurinburg Scotland, 6-3/205 (North Carolina commitment).
SOUTH CAROLINA High school Ht. / wt. College choiceLB Robert Ayers Bennettsville Marlboro Co. 6-3 / 220 Florida, FSU, NC State, TennesseeOL Corey Lambert Greenville High 6-7 / 310 Clemson commitment WR Sidney Rice Gaffney High 6-4 / 190 Pitt, South Carolina, Syracuse, TennesseeLB Lawrence Timmons Florence Wilson 6-3/220 Florida, FSU, Maryland, North Carolina, Tenn.Honorable mention:DB C.J. Barber, Rock Hill Northwestern, 6-2/210 (Clemson, Georgia, South Carolina);ATH Sinclair Cannon, Greer High, 6-3/190 (Tennessee commitment);DL Dorian Capers, Beaufort Battery Creek, 6-6/270 (South Carolina commitment);DE Mack Frost, Columbia Spring Valley, 6-5/230 (Auburn, Florida, Maryland, South Carolina, Virginia);QB William Richardson, Sumter High, 6-4/205 (Clemson, East Carolina, Hampton, Memphis); OL James Thompson, Sumter High, 6-5/305 (Clemson, FSU, North Carolina, South Carolina).
TENNESSEE High school Ht. / wt. College choiceDT Demonte Bolden Chattanooga Tyner 6-5 / 295 Tennessee commitmentDL Lamar Divens Fayetteville Lincoln Co. 6-4 / 260 Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, VandyLB Walter Fisher Jr. Nashville Hillsboro 6-4 / 240 Alabama, TennesseeFB David Holbert Nashville Brentwood Academy 6-1 / 225 Auburn, Florida, LSU, TennesseeHonorable mention: DB Carlos Armour, Memphis Melrose, 6-3/195 (Miami commitment); DE Brandon Fanney, Morristown West, 6-4/255 (Alabama, Virginia, Virginia Tech); OL Ramon Foster, Henning Ripley, 6-7/280 (Tennessee commitment); LB Jeff Jennings, Dandridge Jefferson Co., 6-2/217 (Vanderbilt commitment); TE Tom Santi, Nashville Montgomery Bell Academy, 6-5/220 (Virginia commitment); DB Ellix Wilson, Memphis Melrose, 6-0/205 (Tennessee commitment).
TEXAS High school Ht. / wt. College choiceQB Rhett Bomar Grand Prairie High 6-4 / 205 Oklahoma commitmentS Andrew Kelson Houston Lamar 6-2 / 210 Texas commitmentWR Lance Leggett Arlington Grace Prep 6-4 / 178 Florida, Miami, Okla., Texas A&MCB Marcus Walker Waco High 5-11 / 185 Ark., FSU, LSU, Okla., Texas A&MHonorable mention: DL Chris Smith, Allen High, 6-5/265 (Texas A&M commitment); DL William Morrisey, Silsbee High, 6-1/285 (Texas A&M commitment); QB Stephen McGee, Burnet High, 6-3/205 (Texas A&M commitment); QB Kirby Freeman, Brownwood High, 6-3/190 (Miami commitment); DT Franklin Okam, Richardson Lake Highlands, 6-5/300 (Florida, Oklahoma, Texas); QB Robbie Reid, Galena Park North Shore, 6-3/225 (Oklahoma State commitment).
VIRGINIA High school Ht. / wt. College choiceDE Olu Hall Fairfax Robinson 6-5 / 220 NC State, Ohio State, Purdue, Virginia, Va. TechDB Kent Hicks Culpeper County 6-2 / 190 Maryland commitmentLB Jerod Mayo Hampton Kecoughtan 6-2 / 215 NC State, Purdue, Tennessee, Virginia, Va. TechRB Cedric Peerman Naruna Campbell 5-10 / 185 Virginia commitmentHonorable mention: LB Andrew Bowman, Richmond Hermitage, 6-1/220 (North Carolina, Purdue, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech); OL John Bradshaw, Fredericksburg Stafford, 6-5/295 (West Virginia commitment); DT Jon Kirchner, Lexington Rockbridge County, 6-5/260 (Virginia commitment); DE Chris Long, Charlottesville St. Anne's Belfield, 6-4/262 (Virginia commitment); WR PHOTO: Eddie Royal, Chantilly Westfield, 5-10/170 (Marshall, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech); DE Clint Sintim, Woodbridge Gar-Field, 6-3/255 (Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech).
THE SELECTION PANELThe Orlando Sentinel's All-Southern football team was selected by Walt McMahon, Birmingham, Ala.; Robert Yates, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock; Bill Buchalter and Buddy Collings, Orlando Sentinel; Jody Demling, Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal; Bill Bumgarner, The Times-Picayune, New Orleans; Bill Spencer, Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger; John Miller, Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram; and Norm Wood, Newport News (Va.) Daily Press.
Rick Maese can be reached at email@example.com.