LAKEWOOD RANCH - David Carrillo's ability jumps out at anyone who attends a Lakewood Ranch High soccer game. His grace with the ball and flair make him a one-man show.
He'll find a teammate with his back heel or bend a ball perfectly onto the waiting foot of a streaking forward. His talent begs the question: Where was this kid last year?
The answer: While his Mustangs teammates played on the soccer field, Carrillo worked on a different kind of field.
A varsity player as a sophomore, Carrillo spent last year helping his family by picking vegetables in the morning and evening in the Falkner Farms fields. He spent his "free" time trying to improve his grades.
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After sitting out his junior year, Carrillo returned to the Mustangs this season, where he's shown the same level of excellence he displayed before he left.
"We were passing through a difficult time in my family, so it was like 'Play soccer or go out to the fields,' " said Carrillo, who stayed in the game by playing in the Hispanic men's league with his brothers on Sundays after working the fields early in the morning. "I decided to go to the fields and help my parents out."
Monday, the center midfielder scored two goals, but his true gift might be his passing ability. Though Lakewood Ranch coach Matt Kane didn't have exact statistics, he said Carrillo is among team leaders in assists.
Carrillo has also contributed key goals, including a game-winner against Cape Coral Mariner.
"He's more of a playmaker," Kane said. "He controls the midfield, but he's more of an assist guy. He has the vision to put people into space that some people wouldn't see."
Zach Jones, who is often at the receiving end of those passes, said the team missed Carrillo's skill, creativity and versatility last year.
"It was a bummer," Jones said. "I was so surprised when he didn't come out last year, and I didn't know why he didn't."
After deciding he wasn't going to play, Carrillo didn't question his choice too much until his friend and teammate Eric Reyes reported back about games last season.
Carrillo's parents, Margarita and Tomas, moved here from Mexico with little education and set about making sure their children make the most of their scholastic opportunities. David is the youngest of six children.
Carrillo, who said his grades are up, plans to attend Manatee Community College next year, continuing a long line of successes for the Carrillo family.
But this season, Carrillo has had the opportunity to enjoy himself. He has a flexible job at Arby's to help his parents. And he has soccer again.
His return didn't come easily. He was out of shape because of his absence last season.
But he never considered quitting, not with the perspective he gained on hard work from those days spent working in the fields.
"I am trying my hardest because this is my last year," he said. "My parents told me to go out and have fun. They have helped me a lot. My dad says, 'Hey, go out and play. This is your last year.' This means a lot to me. It's a good experience."