"Who's the kid wearing number 12?"
It was a question asked by many in the crowd last week at Hicksville's soccer against East Meadow.
That would be junior Brandon Meza, who was playing in his first game with the team, and there are at least a few reasons for the interest and curiosity.
First, there was the hairstyle.
Meza was sporting a look that can't really be classified. It was part Mohawk and part fade with contrasting shades of brown locks reaching his back. Yet his hair -- Meza said he has dyed his hair red and orange before and has since changed his style again -- wasn't the only thing that distinguishes him on the field.
Meza has elicited attention because he is also new to the team, having transferred from Dickinson High School in Jersey City. He enrolled at Hicksville last October, which, according to Nassau Section VIII eligibility rules, was too late at that point for him to join the school's soccer team.
When he attended the tryout for this year's team, Meza instantly turned heads. "He came to our tryout and my jaw dropped," Hicksville coach Scott Starkey said.
There in lies what's likely the main reason behind all the inquisitiveness from many who watch him play -- Meza has superior soccer skills.
Despite not scoring or assisting on a goal, Meza went from being an unknown player to a can't-miss in that Sept. 17 game. His ability to shake defenders while maintaining his dribble drew plenty of oohs and ahhs. He displayed deft decision-making with creative passes, a couple of them traveling right through the legs of opposing defenders.
"I like to stand out when I'm on the field," Meza said. "It's not an ego thing, I just don't want it to be boring. I want to give those who are watching, something that I think they would enjoy seeing."
Meza is doing plenty of that so far -- on the defensive side of the ball, too.
"That's the other thing; I've had a lot of flamboyant offensive players, but yeah, he definitely can make a difference on defense," said Starkey, who is in his fifth year as Comets' coach. "I've also had a lot of guys who could beat someone but then after that they don't know what to do. He beats someone and then creates. He's a beautiful player."
Meza said he began playing soccer when he was 3, and later developed a passion for the sport because it served as an outlet for him to showcase his imagination.
Teammates have said Meza's presence has given the team such a lift that a county championship seems to be a realistic goal for the very deep Hicksville team.
Win or lose, Meza can't be missed on the field.
"Soccer gives me a foundation to express myself," Meza said. "It's a platform to show how I'm feeling and it lets me display my creativity."