Pirates player makes up for lost time

Wide receiver wannabe Shane Lecouris, a newcomer to the game, applies soccer skills as kicker.

Published May 7, 2006

CRYSTAL RIVER - A little more than two decades ago, Victor Lecouris played strong safety and running back for the Pirates. But he never could get his son, Shane, interested in the sport.

A student formerly at Seven Rivers and now at Crystal River, Shane focused on soccer, scoring 32 goals for the Warriors as a freshman.

As for football, he never wanted to watch a game on television or to throw a ball with his father.

Until now.

"Now he's watching the draft on ESPN, and he's watching the classic stuff," Shane's father said. "I'm like, "Where'd this come from?"'

Victor can thank new Crystal River coach Anthony Paradiso. A 28-year-old former high school quarterback star, Paradiso implored all students to come out for the team, whether they knew anything about football or not.

And Shane, 16, starved for team atmosphere after low grades kept him out of all but one Crystal River soccer game, decided to try a new sport.

"It just happened over night," Victor Lecouris said. "I was really shocked. He had never wanted to touch a football.

Before spring practice began Monday, Shane asked his dad to play catch a few times, but that was the extent of his football knowledge. As he has learned to play, he has been practicing wearing Reebok soccer cleats.

"I don't even know where the pads go," Shane said on the third day of practice, before the players received their full equipment. "I'll probably have to ask somebody."

As a kicker, the balls fly from Shane's foot - not a surprise considering his soccer background. But he is remarkably accurate, making field goals from 40 and 45 yards with some regularity.

On Monday, his first day kicking a football, Lecouris copied junior Melissa Blackstone's form after watching her try to become the team's only female player. (Blackstone, lacking Lecouris' strong leg, gave up kicking last week).

Shane will happily kick this fall, but sending balls through the uprights is not his No. 1 goal. Instead, he wants to play receiver.

After years of playing soccer, he wants to experience the big-time hits of high school football. Already, Shame has told his dad he sometimes "is seeing stars" after getting hit. Meanwhile, his soccer coach is cringing.

"I'm leary on his body taking the pounding," said Crystal River soccer coach Steve Ekeli, a family friend. "If he's going to take the beating of a football player, I don't know if his body is ready for it."

Ekeli believes Shane can play college soccer, and he knows the junior year - his next season - is the most important in the scholarship process. The coach made his star player promise he'll still devote several hours each week to practicing soccer.

Ekeli's recommendation that Lecouris avoid playing receiver fellon deaf ears.

"Here's the thing with Shane: if he damages his leg, or if he injures himself, he's done," Ekeli said. "I told him, "you can play with fire but it's going to burn you eventually."'

For now, however, he'll continue to try to make the team as a receiver.

"Once I set my mind to something, I don't give up," he said.

Brian Sumers can be reached at bsumers@sptimes.com or 564-3628.