Kevin Dillman of Sweden
Thanksgiving weekend has plenty to keep college football fans entertained, especially in Los Angeles, where top-ranked Notre Dame takes on the USC Trojans, and the Stanford Cardinal hope to beat the UCLA Bruins. Meanwhile, not far away, an up-and-coming high school quarterback is getting rave reviews from college football scouts who think he has a big future. And he comes from a place where football means “soccer.” Reporter: Vanessa RomoKevin Dillman is 6 feet 4 inches tall, weighs about 210 pounds and is a force on the football field. The 16-year-old quarterback moved from Sweden to the southeast Los Angeles County city of La Mirada to play football for the Matadors. The Swedish sophomore is projected to be one of the country’s top college football recruits from the Class of 2015.But for all of his talents at quarterback, that’s not what he played this year.”He’s playing free safety on defense, uh, wide receiver, I think we’ve had him in defensive end, but I can’t remember,” Jim Phillips, the team’s social media director says.On this day, La Mirada is playing against Bishop Amat, a local Catholic high school. At this point, the Matadors are down by 14 points and Phillips is waiting for Dillman to do something impressive like he did in the season’s first game against St. Paul High.”He returned the opening kick-off of the game 97 yards for a touchdown,” Philips says.In the end, La Mirada can’t build momentum. It’s their first of two losses for the season.”I always knew I wanted to play football in the U.S.,” Dillman says. “But I didn’t know if it was going to be possible for me to play high school all four years.”How Kevin Dillman ended up here goes back a generation. His father was a foreign exchange student at La Mirada High School more than 30 years ago. He kept in touch with his classmates and brought his son for a visit when the boy was 13.That’s when varsity football coach Mike Moschetti got a look at Kevin’s arm. “I believe he was in 8th grade,” Moschetti remembers. “We were practicing, and he was on the sidelines throwing with his dad, and I remember looking over saying, you know who’s the 23-year-old, you know, standing over there on the sidelines?”A year later Dillman enrolled at La Mirada High under a tourist visa. But that expired after only a few months. So he packed up and headed home to southern Sweden. “We knew Kevin was going to be a highly recruited football player so we didn’t want him to stay here on an expired visa,” Moschetti says. “That would make him an illegal citizen, then the government could make it hard for him down the road.” Dillman filed more paperwork, lifted weights and waited for seven months before he was granted U.S. citizenship. Almost immediately, he was back in his No. 10 jersey, and his teammates welcomed him back in the way teenagers do — with a slew of nicknames: The Swede, Swedeness, Sweedy. “Big old line coach calling me Swedeness,” Dillman says. “That’s pretty funny.” Coach Moschetti put together a highlight reel, and in came a flurry of college offers. Dillman has interest from nine schools: UCLA, Louisville, Arkansas, Old Miss, Utah, U.C. Berkeley, Colorado, Florida State and Nebraska.Because he’s still a kid, Kevin’s been living with a host family. Nancy Meyers is the fill-in mom in Kevin’s new life. She says her husband Kenny had worked it all out with coach Moschetti and somehow forgot to mention it to her — until she ran into a friend. “And she goes, ‘Oh, so you’re going to take the Swede in?’ And I’m all, ‘What are you talking about?’ I had no clue. I’m all, ‘no absolutely not,'” Meyers says.But it didn’t take long for Kevin Dillman to melt her heart. “I kept picturing a big Swede,” Meyers says. “Like a big lineman type of guy, and when I answered the door it was Kevin, I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ I go, ‘you need to be a model what are you doing playing football?'”Nancy and Kenny, the coach of La Mirada’s freshman team, both say Dillman is an extremely focused kid. He has a 3.8 grade point average and keeps his room relatively clean, which is the only condition his mom gave him to let him move to another continent. Dillman texts his parents every day. And his dad follows his games in real time on Twitter. Nancy Meyers says Dillman is usually so poised that it’s easy to overlook how intimidating it is to be in the spotlight.She recently told him: “‘You have to learn to give interviews,’ and then he said, ‘but I’m only 15,'” Meyers says. “And I think a lot of times, we all forget that.”Dillman’s getting a lot of opportunities to improve his interviewing skills. At a recent practice, Swedish reporter Nick Kramer was there to interview Dillman. “You know, he might be the next Peyton Manning,” Kramer says. “It’s like being striker. Like being the Reynaldo of soccer if you make it.”The other boys on the team seem unfazed by the crew and the attention thrown on Dillman. They know about the multiple scholarship offers, but nobody’s jealous says his teammate Tristan Tristao. “They’re coming to look at a lot of the players, and while they’re looking at those players, they see even other players that they’re interested in. So it kind of works out for the whole team,” Tristao says. Dillman says being around such great players is what drives him. Still, he’s not one to brag. “I would see it as I have potential,” Dillon says.He says he doesn’t have a favorite school yet but wherever he goes he hopes it’ll lead to the NFL, with regular visits to Sweden.