CHICAGO -- Growing up in Jamaica, Desroy Maxwell’s childhood was spent with a soccer ball at his feet. Back then, he didn’t even know what football was. It was soccer all day and all night all year.
But after Maxwell moved to Chicago with his family from Montego Bay when he was 11, he soon discovered other sports, specifically football, were more popular in the United States. And after showing a bit of potential in a pickup football game, Maxwell was convinced by a friend he should give the sport more of his time.
Maxwell never gave up his love for soccer, but he did give up his soccer cleats and decided to concentrate on football in high school. Now with a handful of Division I offers, Maxwell, a senior at Amundsen, can’t say he has any regrets.
Maxwell is also ESPNChicago.com’s Prep Athlete of the Week.
“I never thought something like this would happen,” said Maxwell, who is 6-foot-3, 230 pounds and plays wide receiver, linebacker and kicker for the Vikings.
Amundsen coach Grant Jones had an idea something like this could happen. Even though Maxwell arrived to the Chicago North Side school three inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter than he is today, Jones saw potential. He still had decent size, could run, was athletic and, just as important, was willing to work.
Jones has witnessed plenty of players with Maxwell’s type of skill come through the Chicago Public League before, but not all of them accept the commitment it takes to succeed.
“A lot of times in the CPS, guys don’t pan out to what you think they can be,” Jones said. “As a bright-eyed freshman, he really bought into everything we told him with the weight room and offseason conditions. He was dedicated and committed, and he also believed in what we were teaching him.”
That wasn’t hard for Maxwell, who had devoted himself the same way to soccer when he was back home.
“I used to put it into soccer and now I put into football,” Maxwell said. “You got to be put in the hours to go where you want to be. I did it because I saw I could make something of myself and be better.”
At the high school level, Maxwell does a bit of everything for Amundsen.
He catches passes. He makes tackles. He lines up at quarterback in the Wildcat. He even kicks field goals. In last week’s win over Maine East, he caught two touchdown passes and connected on field goals from 32 and 40 yards.
“You name it, he can do it,” Jones said.
At the next level, Maxwell is being recruiting mostly as a linebacker and defensive end. He has offers from a number of MAC schools and has received interest from Colorado, Illinois and Michigan State. He hopes to make a decision after Amundsen’s season.
Since arriving to the United States, Maxwell hasn’t returned to Jamaica. His father still lives there and hasn’t seen him play football live, but thanks to YouTube has seen his highlights.
“He’s proud of me,” Maxwell said.