Three former Flagler Palm Coast High School athletes have signed with Webber.
by: Brent Woronoff
When Greg Kong’s daughter informed him that she had been offered a college scholarship to play flag football, he thought she had been punked.
Two weeks later Marisa Kong is making plans to begin her academic and athletic career at Webber International University in Babson Park.
Marisa, a recent Flagler Palm Coast High School graduate, signed a letter of intent with Webber on July 28, a month after beginning her first semester at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
Marisa has been rooming with FAU soccer player and Matanzas High graduate Miracle Porter. Greg Kong signed a year’s lease on the apartment.
“Now I’m going to have to pay my rent obligation until we find a replacement for Marisa,” Greg Kong said. But that’s OK with dad. This was an opportunity the family couldn’t refuse.
College flag football
The NAIA, an athletic association of small colleges, has partnered with the NFL to offer women’s flag football as an intercollegiate sport beginning this upcoming school year.
Flag football previously has been only a club sport. Webber is now one of 15 NAIA schools nationally, and five in the state of Florida, offering women’s flag football scholarships.
Webber announced the hiring of coach Jeff Melesky on June 12, and he immediately went to work finding players for his first team, which will begin intercollegiate play this spring.
Melesky’s first team will include three former FPC players: Marisa Kong, Breaza Robinson and Emma Parrish.
Robinson, a middle linebacker and wide receiver, signed a letter of intent on July 1. Melesky had also heard about Kong and asked Robinson her opinion in signing her former teammate. Robinson responded, “You won’t be disappointed.”
But Marisa Kong had torn an ACL in the first game of her senior season on March 2 — before the pandemic canceled the season — and underwent reconstructive surgery on June 12.
Sitting in her new apartment in Boca Raton she received an email from Melesky gauging her interest.
“It was a lot to think about,” Marisa Kong said. “I just tore my ACL. What if I’m not recovered?”
Melesky assured her he was still interested.
“I’m never going to count somebody out because she had surgery,” Melesky said in a phone interview. “I told her to get here, learn the ropes, learn the playbook. The injury didn’t matter. I know what kind of player she is.”
Marisa Kong recently began weight bearing exercises to build back the muscle in her knee. She said she is about a month ahead of her recovery timetable.
“The doctor said I should be cleared by the beginning of February,” she said. “The season starts at the end of February. I’ll have a rehab plan with the trainers and I’ll do conditioning until I’m cleared.”
After she recovers, Marisa Kong will primarily play safety and also see playing time on offense at receiver or quarterback, Melesky said.
“I think Marisa is up to playing just about any position we put her at,” Melesky said. “If we have seven athletes as good as Marisa, we’ll be fine.”
Marisa Kong’s summer term at FAU ends on Aug. 7. She will start school at Webber on Aug. 24. She’ll receive a combined athletic-academic scholarship.
Because Marisa Kong was dual-enrolled at FPC, earning credits at Daytona State College, she is beginning her college career as a sophomore, but she will still be eligible to play flag football for four years.
Marisa Kong is majoring in sports and fitness and plans to minor in nursing and also be a student trainer. She said she hopes to become a physician’s assistant in the sports medicine field.
Robinson, a 2019 FPC graduate, attended St. Johns River State College in Palatka this past year and had planned to transfer to Daytona State before she heard about Webber’s interest.
Before the pandemic halted the season, Robinson played women’s tackle football for the Daytona Waverunners.
“I didn’t expect to play football in college,” said Robinson, a business administration major. “I really didn’t expect to get a scholarship. But from the report (Coach Melesky) got from (Jim Gambone, her coach at FPC), it sounded like I was a player he was looking for.”
“Breaza is a quintessential linebacker,” Melesky said. “She can play the middle of the field and wreak havoc. She is great at knowing what the quarterbacks are going to do.”
Parrish signed a letter of intent in March to play basketball at Webber. Now she will also play flag football.
Marisa Kong, who transferred to FPC from Matanzas after her sophomore year, lettered in three sports: volleyball, soccer and flag football. The latter was always her favorite. Now she hopes to help grow the burgeoning college sport.
“Hopefully in a few years, some of the big Division I schools will get it,” she said.