The first time Kassan Myers’ new football teammates at Miami Edison High saw him at practice a few of them shook their heads.
“We thought he couldn’t play — just one of those kids who wanted to be seen on the football team,’’ said Maurice Nelson, a senior who plays quarterback and receiver for the Red Raiders.
How could someone born missing four fingers on their right hand — all but the thumb — make a tackle or catch a ball with only the full use of one hand? How could they possibly play receiver or cornerback or be counted on to handle kickoffs or punts?
“Then the first week of practice he jumped a route, made an interception and took it all the way,’’ Nelson said. “I was like. ‘Dang this kid could play.’ ’’
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Myers (6-1, 175 pounds) has made believers not only of his teammates and coach, but of college recruiters, too. He has already earned himself a scholarship offer from Liberty University, a Football Championship Subdivision program in Lynchburg, Va., and bigger programs — like Illinois — also are showing interest.
Red Raiders coach Trevor Harris said that what colleges like about Myers is what his teammates have come to realize: He’s fast (Myers was clocked at a low 4.6 in the 40-yard dash) and can make plays all over the field regardless of his handicap.
“During the spring he was pretty much one of the players colleges were asking for and sometimes he was the only one they were asking for,’’ said Harris, a former defensive back at Bethune-Cookman.
“I think deep down in his heart he wants to be a receiver. But I think because of his small handicap he feels he has to be a defensive back. He works really hard. There’s not a time when I can honestly say I turn around and this kid doesn’t have his tongue hanging out because he’s working as hard as he can. If he had everything together — all of his fingers on both of his hands — he would definitely be one of the top recruits in our county.’’
One of six children, Myers said he was often teased growing up by his classmates. He didn’t have the confidence to give football a shot, he said, until he was nearly 11 years old, after he saw his cousin Jasper Howard become a star at Edison. Howard, who went on to become a standout cornerback at the University of Connecticut, was fatally stabbed leaving a school party after a win on Oct. 18, 2009 — Myers’ 14th birthday.
“He used to encourage me to play football — go make a tackle, go make a play,’’ Myers said. “He was an inspiration to me growing up watching him play at Edison. That’s part of the reason I came here my senior year.’’
A backup who got occasional playing time at Pembroke Pines Flanagan High each of the past two years at cornerback, Myers is one of 11 players at Edison who rarely comes off the field. He starts at cornerback and plays more than half the snaps on offense at receiver. Myers also handled kickoffs and punts in the Red Raiders’ 18-0 season-opening win over Krop, but “made a bone-head play,’’ according to Harris, when he tried to make a play and turned it over.
“I can understand his desire to make a play,’’ Harris said. “But you’ve always got to be smart. So I’m going to be disciplining him a little bit for that this week.
“Kasson can find daylight. He’s a nice-size bodied kid, and most of the time it takes more than one guy to take him down.’’
Nelson said Myers is probably the third-best receiver on the team. Myers still hasn’t caught a pass this season, but he hopes to Thursday night when Edison (1-0) takes on Miami Springs (1-1) at Curtis Park.
The thought of playing receiver and being able to catch a ball lights up Myers’ face.
“I feel like I’m the same as everybody else,’’ Myers said. “The toughest part is trying to grab the ball, grip the ball, but it doesn’t stop me. I just grab it with my palm and guide it in with my other hand.’’