It was in the seventh grade when Latavious Brini realized he had the potential to make a career out of playing football.
A defensive back at Northwest Christian Academy, he was making plays on the varsity team week-in and week-out.
And a year from now, Brini will make the next step toward his football goals when he plays for the University of Georgia.
“I love the SEC,” Brini said. “That’s where talent’s made.”
But between now and then, the 6-2, 200-pound corner has a list of goals to take care of.
Graduate high school, make it to the Under Armour All-American game, and make it to states.
“We’ve got to be out there. We’ve got to be some dogs this year,” Brini said. “We can’t slack. We can’t take any team lightly.”
Mater Academy came close last year. The Lions went 10-1 during the regular season, winning by an average of three touchdowns per game.
They won a nail-biting 35-34 game against Nova in the first round of the playoffs and followed up with a 42-19 win over Miami Sunset to avenge their lone regular-season loss of the season.
And then came eventual Class 7A state champion St. Thomas Aquinas.
The Raiders make quick work of the Lions, coasting to a 60-7 win. St. Thomas amassed more than 400 yards of offense while limiting Mater Academy to just 127 yards of its own.
“We ended off terrible,” senior middle linebacker Jonathan Francois said. “This year, we learned from it and we hope to persevere through to states.”
And with one final year to make that statement, Brini’s goal is to ensure the underclassmen know what’s at stake. He’s ready to take them under his wings, show them the ropes and make
sure Mater Academy football is in good hands once he and the rest of the senior class leaves.
“I’m always going to be going after the younger kids,” he said. “I’m also going to be getting after it, making sure I’m the voice on that defense.”
And by doing so, Brini said, it’ll help him as he prepares for SEC ball at Georgia, one of almost three dozen schools that has offered him a scholarship.
Between UGA wide receivers coach James Coley visiting Brini over the summer and saying “everything I wanted to hear” and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker having almost 20 years of coaching experience (including 10 in the NFL), Brini said it was a no-brainer to commit to Georgia.
“[Tucker] has coached at the highest level,” said Brini, a four-star recruit and the No. 41 ranked player in the state of Florida according to 247 sports. “That was a really good selling point for me.”
But with a year until he steps foot on campus -- and a handful of goals to accomplish until then -- Brini is focusing on the present.
From the time the season opens Aug. 26 against Miramar until the final play -- whether that comes in the regular season finale against Miami Lakes or in the playoffs -- it’ll stay that way.
“I’m excited for the season,” Brini said. “Let’s get out there.”