It was 2004 and Jacquille Veii had only recently moved to the United States from England, where his father was working at the University of Surrey in the department of psychology.
As he tells it, Veii was flipping through the channels when he landed on the Super Bowl.
“I remember it was the Patriots versus the Carolina Panthers,” Veii said. “I was flipping through the channels and there it was on Fox. I was like, ‘What is this? What is going on here?’ I was really interested.”
The next fall, Veii asked his mother to sign him up. Eight years later, Veii — who stars at running back and defensive back for Avalon, a private school in Gaithersburg with fewer than 200 students in grades two through 12 — will be playing that foreign sport at the collegiate level after committing to Maryland on June 28.
“I like Coach [Tom] Brattan, my recruiter, and I like coach [Brian] Stewart’s NFL experience coaching defensive backs,” Veii said. “I like Coach Edsall and I like everything about Maryland. Obviously it was where I was going.”
Veii picked up his first offer from Boston College in March. Overtures soon followed from Iowa, Ohio, Old Dominion and others.
In late June, Veii went to Maryland’s one-day football camp. During the 40-yard dash, the 18-year old surprised himself and Maryland coaches, running a sub-4.4 second 40 not once, but twice.
“In January I went to the all-American combine down in Florida, I surprised myself down there when I ran a 4.49 electronically timed,” Veii said. “I didn’t think I would be running 4.3s and 4.2s.”
Maryland Coach Randy Edsall offered Veii during the camp, and the 5-foot-10, 175-pound defensive back said it took little deliberation to know what he wanted to do.
Veii’s father, Kazuvire Veii, was an adjunct assistant professor of psychology at Maryland for a semester in 2008.
“I called my mom and I let her know the news and she was very excited because she had dreams of me going there ever since we moved here,” Veii said. “I spoke it over with her and spoke it over with my stepdad and it was evident that’s where I was supposed to be, so I just made that move.”
A move that 10-year-old boy watching his first Super Bowl eight years ago hardly could have imagined.
Related: Jacquille Veii 2011 football stats