His heart pounds, his muscles twitch. With kickoff just minutes away, the national anthem plays and Jeff Gouveia gears up for another Auburn...
AUBURN — His heart pounds, his muscles twitch.
With kickoff just minutes away, the national anthem plays and Jeff Gouveia gears up for another Auburn High School football game. Dozens of family members and friends fill the stands, his private cheering section, but at this moment his mind focuses on the one who isn't there, his father.
"Dad, I'm playing for you, always, when I'm out here," he says to himself, part of his pregame ritual. "I pray you're praying for me. I hope you're all right. I hope one day you can come out and see me play."
Gouveia remembers his father watching him play junior football, but never at Auburn, where he has developed into one of the area's top linebackers with the fifth-ranked, unbeaten Trojans. His father has been in and out of prison most of his son's life and currently is at the Clallam Bay Corrections Center, serving the final part of a 22-month sentence for two counts of theft. His expected release date is in early 2009.
Gouveia has a large, closely knit family held together by his biggest fan, his mother, Ana Manumaleuna. Their small, two-bedroom apartment is full of family, including his 8-month-old twin nieces. He shares his room with his adopted brother, Jay Payne, a fellow Auburn senior. His mother shares hers with her youngest daughter, Dajonae, a 15-year-old sophomore at Auburn. Older sister Anjelika, 20, regularly stops by with the babies and her fiancé, Gaston Shelton, a former football and wrestling standout at Auburn. Older brother Travis, 23, is frequently home, too.