Angela Archie Jackson was told she was unable to have children.
She proved her doctors wrong when she gave birth to a boy. In a celebratory gesture, he was named Kwanzi.
The child's name came from the Swahili word Kwanzaa, which means first and signifies the first fruits of the harvest.
"When my mom had me, it was like a blessing, like the first-born fruit. Some people say it fits me best, and I feel an obligation to live up to that," the Manatee High junior said.
On the football field, the defensive end has more than lived up to that goal in being selected the Herald All-Area Defensive Player of the Year.
Only 16 years old, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Jackson racked up an astonishing 25 sacks in leading the Hurricanes to the Class 8A state semifinal.
Manatee defensive coordinator Jim Phelan says Jackson is a unique physical specimen with a strong work ethic and desire that enabled him to put up those glittering numbers.
"We had 54 sacks this season, and he had 25 of them, which is incredible. I don't know of any player in the history of this program that has ever gotten that many," Phelan said. "We've had players who are big and strong and others who were quick. But we never had anyone who was big, strong and quick off the ball. Every sack he had was a tackle on a pass play. He was constantly putting pressure on people, which is the only way you can get those kinds of numbers."
Jackson played tight end during his youth football days and was a linebacker on the Manatee junior varsity team last season. When he moved up to varsity this year, Phelan didn't hesitate to put him at defensive end because of his size, speed, athleticism and demeanor. He has developed a variety of moves to get by blockers; many he said he learned from Steve Gulash, the Hurricanes' former defensive line coach.
"When a play starts, the first thing I think about is getting my hands on the ball, and I have several moves in my head that I am going to use," Jackson said. "To me, getting a sack is the ultimate play in football.
Jackson wasn't just a sack master. He was second on the Canes with 75 solo tackles, quite impressive for a defensive end. He also blocked two punts and had two forced fumbles.
He comes from an athletic family that includes two cousins who were known for their pass-catching skills: Jammi German from Fort Myers, who played at the University of Miami and spent four years in the NFL, and J.J. Moore of St. Petersburg Gibbs, one of the all-time great receivers at the University of Massachusetts.
Jackson has the physical skills to play wide receiver, but he has found a home at defensive end. It appears he would get more satisfaction out of a sack than hauling in a touchdown pass.
"I like defensive end because you can work with your hands more than at the other positions," Jackson said. "I've had a lot of help from my dad (Charles) and (former Manatee quarterback) Tracy Sanders. During the offseason, I am going to work a lot with Coach Sanders and attend some camps. My goal next year is get more sacks and get a scholarship to one of those big schools."
Phelan sees college coaches banging down the door to get Jackson to come to their program now that he has a varsity season under his belt.
"We've had some great defensive ends come through this program, but no one has come close to his 25 sacks.
"Are you kidding me? He has it all," Phelan said.