When I first happened across Carl Hiaasen’s offbeat and wildy entertaining mysteries, I assumed that in concocting his characters the longtime Miami Herald columnist was drawing on his experiences as a journalist and exaggerating what he had seen. I was half right; having since spent a few years as a resident of South Florida, I now understand that if anything Hiassen tones down his adaptations from the real world in order to make his fiction more believable.
One of Hiaasen’s novels–all of which are set in his home state–mentions, in passing, a center on a high-school basketball team who, unbeknownst to his opponents if not his coach and teammates, is 27 years old. Now out of Tampa comes this story:
FL man allegedly claimed to be 14 to play football
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Something wasn’t right about Chad Jordan.
He was perfectly nice at youth football practice, his coach said. He never made any trouble. But still, “There just was a lot of stuff that wasn’t adding up, you know?” said Ray McCloud, coach of the Town ’N’ Country Packers.
McCloud’s instincts were right.
Julious Javone Threatts is 21 years old. He’s now behind bars without bail after Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies said he used the alias Chad Jordan to pose as a 14-year-old boy, join the Tampa Bay Youth Football League and try to register at a Tampa middle school. Threatts was on probation for burglary charges, authorities later determined.
He now faces charges of trespassing on school grounds, obstruction by a disguised person and violation of probation.
Hillsborough County jail records Saturday did not show whether he was represented by an attorney.
“He really acted like a kid,” McCloud said. “My son is 13, and my son was hanging out with him, and (Threatts) acted more immature than (my son).”
It’s unclear how long Threatts pretended to be a teenager or why he did it.
Steve Levinson, president of the football league, said Threatts played for the now defunct West Coast Youth Football Conference last year, trained again during the spring and then joined the Tampa Bay league at the beginning of this season. Levinson said the person he knew as Chad Jordan turned in all the necessary registration paperwork, including a copy of his birth certificate, which officials now realize must have been fake.
“He duped everyone,” Levinson said.
Threatts, who is 5-11 and 160 pounds, only played with the Packers for the season’s first game on Aug. 21. Coach McCloud thought it was odd that “Chad” kept his helmet on even when the game was over. “Like he was hiding,” McCloud said.
McCloud said Threatts told the team that his parents had died in a car accident and he was being raised by an older brother. “It was like a movie,” McCloud said.
The coach began to investigate, asking around to see if anyone knew who “Chad” really was.
Finally, he found someone who knew the truth. A friend from Threatt’s neighborhood told McCloud that while Threatt’s father died in a car accident in St. Petersburg last year, his mother was alive, McCloud said.
McCloud found Threatt’s Facebook page, which lists his mother as Debra Miller. It also says Threatts graduated from Leto High School.
There is a link to his YouTube channel, which features him reading a poem he wrote called “GOD…”, and to his Twitter account. The most recent post was on July 26: “just got home. Had a good practice today! Can’t wait till tomorrow.”
McCloud and the other coaches confronted Threatts, and he denied everything.
“After all the stuff that I found out, he still had me second guessing myself,” McCloud said. “That’s how good he was.”
A couple days later, Threatts went to D. W. Webb Middle School on Hanley Road to register for classes, but he showed up without his parents or the necessary paperwork, said Steve Hegarty, a School District spokesman. He told school officials he was homeless, so the school brought in social workers from the Department of Children and Families.
Hegarty said Threatts was sent to the cafeteria for a snack while officials tried to figure out where he belonged.
Coincidentally, Hegarty and the school’s principal, Marcos Murillo, were walking through the lunchroom at the same time. Murillo remarked to Hegarty that Threatts “looked too old to be in middle school… I don’t think he’s 14 years old,” Hegarty recalled the principal saying.
Threatts then went to the school social workers’ office with a school resource deputy. During the investigation, Threatts’ cell phone rang. One of the officials picked it up and asked who was on the line, according to an arrest affidavit. The caller said she was Threatt’s mother, and authorities were finally able to piece together his identity.
He was never enrolled at school, Hegarty said, and was arrested later that day.
Threatt’s mother could not be reached for comment.
McCloud said he thinks Threatts did it because “he just wanted to play football.”
“I don’t think he was good enough to play semipro or anything,” McCloud said. “This might sound crazy, but I feel sorry for him … they say he’s a man, but he really acted like a sweet kid.”
According to his arrest affidavit, Threatts is 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds. He has one tattoo: “Julious” across his left forearm.
Threatts’ Facebook page, by the way, remains active as of this posting. Evidently the jail he’s in doesn’t have a reliable ISP, barring him from either taking his profile offline or updating his status to “behind bars–fuck, man, they caught on!”