Kevin Ball did not begin playing football until the fall season of his ninth grade year at South Lakes High School. Now, more than three years later, the standout offensive lineman looks as well seasoned and schooled in the sport as someone who grew up playing the game.
On a typical snap from center, the 6-foot-5 inch, 265-pound right tackle bursts upward from his stance and drives into his defensive counterpart, often taking him backwards and onto the turf. South Lakes head coach John Ellenberger, naturally, loves to run the football behind Ball, knowing his team is bound to pick up good yardage.
“If we want to get some yards, we’re going to run behind him,” said Ellenberger. “He just pushes people around."
Ball grew up playing baseball, basketball and soccer within the Reston Youth Association (RYA). He did not play football, mostly because he was too big for the respective weight classes. But on a family vacation to northern New Jersey the summer before his freshmen year, his uncle Robert, a former football player at Marquette University, wanted to know if Kevin was going to play high school football.
“I was at his house that summer and he asked me if I was going to play football,” recalled Ball. “I was like, `Yea, if you say its fun, I’ll try it.’”
Ellenberger, during the first few days of tryouts that August, allowed players to try out for their favorite positions. Ball went over with the quarterbacks group.
“He came over to the quarterbacks [station] and I looked at him and said, `Quarterback, huh?’ He looked at me and smiled. I said, `Come on then.’”
Soon enough, Ellenberger grabbed Ball and told him there was a change in plans.
“I pulled him aside and said, `Get your rear over there with the linemen.’”
Ball learned lots of the fundamentals of offensive line play that ninth grade season as a member of the Seahawks’ freshmen team.
“We’ve got a good set of ninth grade coaches here that really work on [lineman] stance, takeoffs, all the fundamentals you want kids to learn,” said Ball.
The following year, as a 10th grader, Ball earned a starting position on the varsity. He has been playing right tackle ever since. Playing varsity as a sophomore was a challenge for Ball.
“I was playing varsity and I was 14 years old,” Ball remembered. “It was a big adjustment. I was playing guys older, bigger and stronger.”
But Ball, on a team that lost most of its games, held his own at tackle. And last year as a junior, Ball, along with his offensive line duties, also saw some time on the defensive line as well. He was one of his team’s best players and earned Second Team All-Liberty District honors at both offensive and defensive tackle positions. South Lakes went 3-7, but still qualified for the Div. 5 region playoffs as a result of the recently expanded playoff format.
This season, Ball, who worked hard in the weight room this past offseason, has continued his progress as a football lineman. And his teammates around him have also gotten better. South Lakes improved its record to 5-1 following last Saturday afternoon’s 21-14 win at Madison, which was celebrating its homecoming.
<b>BALL HAS ALWAYS</b> loved baseball and will be a third year member of the South Lakes varsity this upcoming spring. The Seahawks are coached by Galvin Morris. But it was on the ball diamond where Ball suffered a severe ankle injury last spring while attempting to steal second. The injury ended his baseball season and slowed down the football recruiting process. Schools had been showing interest in Ball as a football player. But as a result of the injury, Ball was not able to attend recruiting camps this past spring as he was healing from his injury.
But Ellenberger said Ball has come back nicely from the injury.
“All the [college] coaches want to see how he’s running on that ankle,” said Ellenberger, who said NCAA Div. 1AA schools all up and down the East coast have expressed interest in Ball as a football player. “He’s doing real well considering [the severity of the injury]. It’s held up.”
Ball’s college plans are still in the makings. He would like to attend and play football in Virginia at a school such as, perhaps, Richmond, William & Mary, or Old Dominion. Ellenberger is sending football film footage of Ball’s games from this season to several schools.
While Ball’s first sports love has always been baseball, football is the sport he will likely play collegiately.
“[One time] he said, `I love baseball, that’s my sport,’” recalled Ellenberger. “I said, `That’s fine, but you’re going to be a scholastic football player.’”
On the football field, Ellenberger has become a take-charge leader and is one of the Seahawks’ team captains this season. There have been times in a game where, with a big play coming up, Ball has signaled to the South Lakes sideline for a running play to be called behind his blocking.
“You’ll see him signaling us to run the ball behind him when the game is on the line,” said Ellenberger. “He’s confident that he’ll knock his kid off the ball.”
Ball, who plans to play basketball for coach Daryl Branch’s Seahawks this winter, has gained a tremendous feel for football in the short time that he’s played.
“It’s definitely a sport that requires a lot of coordination as a lineman,” said Ball, who said he has come a long ways in his foot quickness and speed. “I’ve really grown into my body. I love playing offensive tackle. There’s no better position on the field. You get to hit a person on every single play no matter what.”
South Lakes running back Ja’Juan Jones, who scored the game-winning touchdown against Madison on a long, fourth quarter scoring run to break a 14-14 tie, said he loves carrying the football behind Ball.
“He’s one of the best,” said Jones. “I would not want to run behind anyone as much as Kevin. He makes running backs look good. He’s bigger than everyone, he’s got good footwork, he’s athletic and he’s powerful.”
Ball, who loves spending some of his free time fishing with his dad, friends or younger brother at Lake Audubon in Reston, is a good student in the classroom. And, in just a short time as a football player, he has become a student of the gridiron as well.
“Fundamentally, he does a great job for us,” said Ellenberger. “He knows our [offensive] system.”