Lake Nona QB Kevin Sousa just starting to scratch the surface of his potential

But there was this football thing Kevin had discovered. And Paradiso. Dad went off to Boston to work, mom remained in Orlando, and the couple is still together, while Paradiso acts as mentor.

"We knew nothing about this football. We wanted him to play basketball and soccer because that's what they teach him and I thought he never liked the football," said Kevin's mother, Ana Sousa, whose native language is the Portuguese spoken in the Republic of Cape Verde, an island country off the western coast of Africa.

"My main focus has always been academic. I want him to get good grades so he can go on to university. But the football come and it's a blessing ... God give him a gift. I still focus on the academic but this is his own dream and I support his own dream."

Dad flies in when he can get away from his job as a manager at Garelick Farms, a dairy in Franklin, Mass.

"Both games he flew back for we won," Sousa said.

Ana Sousa gives her boy's relationship with Paradiso her blessing. It helps the younger Sousa deal with all of the football things and allows her to just be mom.

"[Paradiso] is a good guy. He helped him a lot and I thank God for him," said mom. "It was almost like God's assignment. We stayed over here to see what was going to happen."

The answer remains to be seen.

"He's a good kid. He's special," Paradiso said. "Wherever he ends up, it's going to be exciting ... even beyond college. He's going to do special things."

His abilities extend far beyond his big arm. He makes things happen with his legs, as well, and he's quite agile for a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder. His hips change direction with ease. The moves are such that Shakira might even be jealous.

"The other teams, they come out there with one intention and that's to stop Kevin," Paradiso said. "That's what impresses me. Everyone knows he's going to get the ball, but he's still able to make things happen. He's not your average 16-year-old."

That big arm, however, is what can get him in trouble right now. His biggest knock is accuracy. But he says he's working on that. The other knock is his footwork and ability to drop back after taking snaps from under center, as opposed to the shotgun, but Sousa said that criticism might be a bit misdirected.

"I think I'm a lot more accurate from under center," he said. "We used to work on everything from under center first, and until we got it right, we wouldn't go to the shotgun."

Right now he's working on doing both and doing it with ease in transition.

"This is the best high school quarterback I have ever seen," Paradiso says, "and I've seen a bunch. I saw John Brantley (next year's UF starter) when he was at Ocala Trinity and Kevin has a much stronger arm. Now John was a lot more accurate, but that'll come."

As will everything else. Even his mother's understanding of the game.

"I try to learn little bit when I see people talking on the TV to see if I'm going to like it and my concern is I don't want him to get hurt," Ana Sousa said.

And when he got hurt last year, there was a bit of concern.

"Oh, of course," Ana said. "But this is his dream and that decision is up to him."

He has a huge decision coming up: His choice of college.

Right now he's just getting warmed up in the recruiting process with offers from Florida International and Florida Atlantic. He also has verbal offers from Tulane and Miami.

Eventually he won't be able to remember them all. But he has Paradiso to help.

"I'll go wherever Coach Paradiso thinks is best for me," Sousa said. "I've trusted in him from the beginning and I'm not going to stop trusting him now."

Oh, and he has one other dream, which just thinking about ought to thrill Lake Nona head coach Anthony Hamre.

"We got everybody back. We didn't have any seniors last year," Sousa said of the 1-9 Lions. "I want to help lead this team all the way to qualify to be in the state playoffs this year ... working toward being able to compete against more teams."

Just icing on the cake for the young Lake Nona program.

Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coordinator and can be reached at
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