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SMITHFIELD — Smithfield-Selma High kicker Jesse Vallecillo signed to play football for St. Augustine University on Feb. 11 to become the first member from his immediate family to go to college.
Three years ago, Vallecillo said he knew nothing about football, having never played the sport. Now the Johnstonian News All-County Special Teams Player of the Year is headed to Raleigh to kick for an NCAA Division II football program.
“It took me some time to learn the technique, how to kick a ball and everything,” Vallecillo said. “Look at me now, I’m getting a scholarship for this and I know it’s a big thing because kickers matter a lot.”
Vallecillo said his kicking background was in soccer, which he had played since the age of 6. The senior said kicking a football became a possibility in high school after a coach saw him kick a ball. He said once he started kicking footballs, he became motivated to go to the next level, because he knew money was tight in his family.
“None of my family has been to college, I’m the first one going to a university,” Vallecilloo said. “I’m just making them proud. It makes me really happy that I’m putting my last name out there for them. I’m the first one and I’m trying to make them happy and do all I can for them.”
Spartans head coach Mike Parrish said Vallecillo’s story is one of the reasons he came to SSS.
“That’s the real reason I’m here, and wanted to be here,” Parrish said. “A lot of people don’t really see SSS as a great place or where they would like to be. I chose to be here and fought to get back here. This is what I’ve been waiting for: To show these kids that your environment doesn’t have to define you, that you can get out and you can do things outside of it — you just have to separate yourself from that circle and you can do special things.”
Vallecillo was 8 of 8 on extra-point kicks and 3 of 5 on field-goal attempts including a 45-yard FG. Parrish said he will miss his kicker.
“Jesse is just a kick-aholic,” Parrish said. “All day, that’s what he does is kick. A lot of people get tired, but not him. He just continues to kick. He takes a couple of water breaks and he kicks some more.”
“Some kickers just come to practice on Thursdays, Jesse came all week and kicked. This year we didn’t have a kick returned on us with Jesse’s kicking. I have no idea where the next kicker is coming from.”
Vallecillo said he will study business administration.