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?
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.
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