Western Tech coach Allan Lagon has heard the story so many times over the last three years the specific details tend to get a bit mangled. Was it a preseason scrimmage … or an actual game? A quarterback sweep … or an end-around? A sixty- yard play? 70? 80?
Opinions vary, but the basic point of the story is crystal clear: Juleon Killikelly-Lee could flat out burn.
"He was a freshman on jayvee and it was something like fourth-and-forever deep in our own territory," Lagon recalls. "Instead of punting, they give it to Juleon. And he just blazes by everybody for a touchdown. He was ridiculously fast."
More like Looney Tunes fast. Killikelly-Lee, a rising senior, is a defensive back/quarterback who first made his name on the track. Last year he won the class-1A state championship in the 100-meters. He owns the fourth fastest 100-meter time in Maryland at 10.84 seconds (Potomac's Ron Darby is first with a 10.59). And in football parlance, Killikelly-Lee routinely clocks in with a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, putting him on par with some of the fastest players in Maryland.
"And those are just the official times," said Killikelly-Lee, who gets his surname from his mother, who is from Ghana. "When I'm running on my track, I'm at a 4.3. I eat it up."
Indeed, Killikelly-Lee chews up the blacktop like a hungry Pacman eats up those little white dots. He trains six days a week with his father, who constantly pushes him to exceed expectations.
The workouts range from strength-training to plyometrics to basic grunt work and running. During the week Killikelly-Lee will slog through a series of lower-body drills and leg presses. Then he'll run suicides, work on his form and practice exploding out his stance. On weekends, he runs with a weighted sled, leaps over hurdles and sprints up hills.
"He's always training," said Killikelly-Lee's teammate and friend, Thomas Moore. "With Juleon, it's about football, school . . . and girls."
That got a laugh out of Killikelly-Lee.
"Come on, I be working man," he said. "The only thing I love is running. I never stop running."
Killikelly-Lee is exaggerating slightly; he hasn't exactly developed Forest Gump's affection for running. That said, he has had a few Gump-like moments on the football field.
Like in Week 2 against Kenwood:
Western Tech was backed up to their own 1-yard line. Killikelly-Lee took the handoff under center and immediately sprinted right. His fullback chipped an oncoming linebacker, clearing a small path for Killikelly-Lee to at least gain a few yards. But that alley-thin lane was all the quarterback needed to bust free. He split the seam, turned on the accelerator and motored down the sideline, 99 yards for a touchdown.
"There was no one within 15 yards of him," Moore said. "No matter who we were playing Juleon was the fastest guy out there."
Believe it or not, Lagon has seen faster in his 12 years at Western Tech. Back in 2001 the coach watched a guy named Dominique Foxworth drop jaws with his two wheels.
"The only kid faster then Juleon was Dominique," Lagon said of the former Maryland Terps and current Ravens cornerback. "And considering how good our track program is, that's really saying something. Juleon has a bright future."
And to think, at one time Killikelly-Lee wanted nothing to do with football. As a youngster he was a basketball star who was admittedly too frightened of the rough, brutal gridiron game. But his cousins egged him on and eventually convinced him to give Pop Warner ball a try as a 10-year old.
After one carry, Killikelly-Lee was hooked. He didn't have to worry about being hit - no one could catch him.
"It was just so much fun - the intensity, the teamwork, everything," Killikelly-Lee said. "I never played basketball again."
But once Killikelly-Lee reached high school his development hit a roadblock. His small size and twig-like frame kept him off the varsity. Killikelly-Lee ran rampant over the jayvee, and the varsity coaches liked his raw talent. But even after he was promoted to varsity his sophomore year he wasn't big enough to have much of an impact. It didn't help that Killikelly-Lee suffered a bad muscle sprain, which wiped out half of his season. Thus, he didn't see a meaningful varsity snap until last year.
Of course, you wouldn't know it by watching him play.
"He was pretty much the best player on the field whenever we played," Moore said. "On defense he had great hip movement, he changed direction real good, he cut real good and he had great instincts. And at quarterback he was a competitor and a leader who always gave 100 percent."
The numbers bear Moore out. As a dual-threat quarterback Killikelly-Lee totaled upwards of 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns. At his more preferred cornerback and safety positions he picked off six passes and ranked among the team leaders in tackles. After the season MdHigh named him to the First Team All-State Small School squad at defensive back.
"I love playing safety because I get to roam around and watch the whole field. I can read the quarterback, see his eyes and get in there for those picks," Killikelly-Lee said. "I try to figure out where the play is going, the down and distance and what I need to do to make a play and get that ball back. It's like a chess match."
Killikelly-Lee certainly has a developed understanding for someone who has been on varsity for just one full season, but he is far from a finished product. Unlike when Foxworth was at Western Tech, Killikelly-Lee doesn't have quite the same football smarts and unreal game speed.
"He's still getting there in terms of football sense," Lagon said. "That said, the difference in Dominique's football sense from his junior to his senior year was exponential. I'm hoping Juleon can have the same epiphany. This year will tell a lot."
Killikelly-Lee knows how important this year is. After all, his college future is at stake.
This offseason he's already lowered his 40 time and added several pounds of muscle to his 6-foot, 185-pound frame. And when he's not studying, he's watching film, trying to find flaws in his footwork and form.
Killikelly-Lee is so focused on football he even gave up track this winter.
"I had to let it go because I kept losing too much weight," he said. "I have to be in top football shape for prospect camps and combines. My goal is to play Division-I football, and I'll do whatever it takes to get there."
Of course, the last Division-I football player out of Western Tech went to earn a spot in the NFL. Now, Lagon isn't bold enough to project that same career path for Killikelly-Lee, but he's not ruling it out either.
"Juleon has tremendous upside and potential," Lagon said. "It's up to him how good he can be."