Jeff Kus and his Aurora Central teammates were guilty of some national profiling when they met new teammate Khalil Guisse in the summer of 2013.
“We’re like, ‘Oh, he’s a kicker,’” said Kus, a 6-4, 240-pound senior defensive lineman.
He was thinking back to that first meeting shortly after the team’s summer camp had started and learning that 6-1, 195-pound newcomer Guisse — pronounced ge-say — was a native of Brazil transferring from a school in Mexico.
While futbol may be the sport of choice in his homeland, football is this South American’s passion. It’s just taken awhile to develop.
Now, in his senior year, he’s emerged as a force at noseguard for the Chargers, where he plays alongside Kus. How he got here is pretty interesting.
“I played soccer when I was little, probably from age 4 to about 10,” said Guisse, who was 7 when his mother Adriana married stepdad Jose Guzman.
“I’m all right (in soccer). When we play in gym class I’ll score a goal or two. But I feel more comfortable with the football team. They’re like my family.”
His family moved to Plano when he was 10. He remembers seeing his older stepbrother play for ACC. It piqued his interest and he tried the sport in eighth grade in Plano.
“We won our (youth league) Super Bowl and that’s what really got me into it,” he said.
Before and after that one season, he spent time in Mexico, living first with his father’s niece, and later his mom stayed with him.
“Ever since I was little I’ve wanted to be an international businessman,” Guisse said. “My parents wanted me to learn more languages because they thought it would be better for me for my future.”
His stepdad is a chemist with a business that produces lubricants for the steel industry that takes him abroad. Khalil now speaks Portuguese, Spanish and English, and “I understand a bit of French from a couple classes I’ve taken,” he said.
In his first two years of high school in Monterey, Mexico, though, he couldn’t quench his thirst for football.
“Didn’t have it,” he said. “They had rugby, but it wasn’t the same.”
Returning to the U.S. for his junior year and registering at ACC, he asked to see the football coach.
“Last year he was very raw,” coach Brian Casey said. “He was athletic but we didn’t know where to put him.”
He tried several positions but “he didn’t know the game real well and he didn’t see the field (much) last year,” defensive coordinator John Belskis said.
“I remember one time trying to signal in a defense in the middle of our game with Guerin, and Khalil is tapping me on the shoulder asking me out of the blue what he was supposed to do in a certain situation if the guard did this.”
What he lacked in knowledge, he made up for in passion.
“He’s got a motor that’s nonstop,” Casey said.
“He’s that goofball kid,” Kus said. “I mean the one always with a smile on his face. He’s always upbeat, always tries to find the positives in things, and can always put a smile on your face.
“He’s grown on me a lot. He fits in. It’s just the football part has taken awhile for him to understand.”
Guisse remembers last season.
“I got in (to games) for eight plays,” he said, adding with pride, “and I made three tackles and recovered a fumble. My coach was like, ‘Good job.’
“I’m not a mean person, but I like tackling. I’ve always loved tackling.”
Apparently. He’s tied for second on the team with 47 tackles, including 13 for loss with five sacks. Kus is one behind him with 46 tackles, 14 for loss and two sacks.
“(Kus) can be a hard head from time to time but when I need help I go to him,” Guisse said. “He explains everything to me and really helps me a lot. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better but I feel like I can do a lot more.”
Follow Rick Armstrong on Twitter: @RickArmstrong28
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Aurora Central (5-3, 1-3) at Wheaton Academy (5-3, 1-3)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday.
The scoop: Each team can guarantee a playoff berth with a win. Warriors playing first season at home at new Performance Trust Field, 900 Prince Crossing Road, West Chicago.