When he was younger, Kobe Mays wasn’t good at football.
When it came to picking teams in the playground, Mays often was chosen last.
He didn’t know it yet, but Mays’ football genes were strong.
And his skills were about to get an upgrade.
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“I was just fast and couldn’t catch,” Mays said. “When I was little, I was really short and everyone else was taller than me.”
Mays, a rising junior, was a key contributor at wide receiver for Palmetto High during the Tigers’ run to the second round of the 2017 Class 7A playoffs following a season-ending injury to senior Jason Spicer Jr.
“What he did last year was just a small snapshot of what’s going to happen this year and then next year,” Palmetto coach Dave Marino said. “... He really took advantage of his opportunity in that playoff stretch run.”
Before Mays became an integral piece to Palmetto’s passing game, he was trying to find his path until the age of 9.
That’s when Mays found out his biological father was Alvoid Mays, who starred at Manatee High, West Virginia University and won a Super Bowl ring with the Washington Redskins.
Kobe’s parents, Natalie Yates and Alvoid, split up when he was young. Kobe had a stepfather in the picture, but he had no clue Alvoid was his father.
“I thought my stepdad was always my real dad,” Kobe said. “So when I found that out, I was kind of emotional. ... My stepdad, he was pretty cool and stuff. But then once my mom told me, it was kind of weird just seeing who my real dad is.”
Natalie and Alvoid eventually got back together, and when Kobe was in fifth grade he learned his father played in the NFL and won a Super Bowl from Natalie.
“I was kind of surprised, because he didn’t look like he was in the NFL,” Mays said. “But he was. He just looked like an old guy.”
With Alvoid around full time, Kobe’s skills started improving.
He was no longer the last one picked for football games.
He was becoming a solid receiver, and he tallied 19 catches for 252 yards with three touchdowns last year.
To get there, Alvoid trained Kobe.
“If my dad wasn’t in my life, I don’t think I’d be playing football right now,” Kobe said.
A defensive back in his career, Alvoid sometimes even does one-on-one drills with his son.
“It gives me a lot of good stuff for when it gets to game time going one-on-one with the DB,” Kobe said.
Kobe said having his father back makes everything better.
“Kobe’s a great kid, he’s a hard worker, high-character kid, mom did an outstanding job without dad in the picture, and then dad did play a major role from that point on,” Marino said. “... That work ethic and the attitude makes all of the rest of it that much easier.”