As a young boy in Iowa, little Kevin Pedersen yearned to have his father pay attention to anything that he did.
The little boy yearned to be a soldier, policeman, fireman, long haul trucker or a farmer. In Miami, little Alex DeCubas, the same age as Kevin, knew as far as his father was concerned, the sun rose and set on little Alex. Kevin moved to Miami with his family when he was in second grade as his dad, a Colonel in the Air Force, was transferred to Homestead. He attended Howard Drive Elementary School. Alex attended Coral Reef Elementary School. Kevin yearned for the day that his dad would come to a sporting event and maybe root for him while little Alex’s dad was always at every event cheering his son on. Kevin yearned for the words, “Way to go Kevin. That’s my boy” while that became a mantra for Alex’s dad, “Way to go Alex. That’s my boy.” Kevin added, “My dad never told me he loved me. I knew he did but he never said it.”
“I attended Christ the King Lutheran Church as a child. My mom took me to Sunday school and everything. I was raised in the church, baptized in the church and married in the church.” He remembered fondly. Kevin’s dad was a Church CEO (Christmas and Easter only). “I am the son of an alcoholic father who also suffered from the things he saw in the war.” This put tremendous stress on his mother, older brother and sister. Life in their household was tense. Kevin learned how to structure his life to avoid conflicts and confrontations. Far from the perfect childhood.
Alex, a Cuban-born naturalized American citizen, grew up with a loving mother and father surrounding him with tender love and showering him with everything a child could want. One can imagine that the church played a part in their family’s life. His father was the owner of a very successful clothing company, Don Luis, and he had the perfect childhood. He provided a very structured life for little Alex.
It was at little league baseball that Kevin Pedersen and Alex DeCubas first met. Kevin was a little kid, light in weight and slight in frame. Alex was a huge guy…muscular and big. Kevin was a lightweight. Alex was a heavyweight. Kevin was quiet and shy while Alex was outgoing and personable. Complete opposites who became friends on the wrestling mat at Palmetto Junior and Senior High School.
“I grew up trying to please him.” explained Kevin of his relationship with his dad. “Wrestling was very big for my dad.”
Usually when teamwork is commended, it is because of ‘the beauty of unison between a collection of different people.’But in a sport where none of your teammates are close when you need them the most, does this mean that they are not as close knit. According to Pederson, this brings them even closer.
Wrestling is one of the most physically demanding and violent sports offered at the high school level. With so much pain and anguish in training yourself how to flail a man your weight as a ragdoll, the blood and sweat are what ultimately bring them closer together than any other sport.
“Wrestling is the toughest sport in high school, there is no question about that…” Pederson stated. “I ate, slept and breathed wrestling. I ran three to four times a day, everyday, I lifted weights all year long. I practiced everyday, and I was damn good. But on the wrestling matt and a wrestling group, you take a bunch of young men and you put them in blood, sweat, tears, banging each other, wrestling live for 45 minutes straight. That bond that they form in that wrestling room is not like any other bond that you are going to have in any other sport. You’re sweating, you’re pissing, you’re bleeding on your teammates every, single, day for two hours. The bond that’s formed in that, it’s deep.”
“That bond that they form through that process from three or four years, it’s huge. There is no other sport like it, none.”
To say that wrestling is an individual sport, isn’t really accurate. Yes, you would be correct in saying that there are no teammates that are the matt with you trying to help you. However, for everyone wrestler, there are two, five, maybe even ten other guys with the same singlet that went down the path that same individual did to help make them the best man or woman they could be. Helping another to become their best what Pederson has continuously preached throughout his entire life, and it all started on a wrestling matt.
Kevin was a scholar who fulfilled his childhood desire to go to West Point. “I graduated and was going to go to the Army.
Alex injured his knee while wrestling in college at the University of Georgia. His father committed suicide and Alex ended up dropping out. “He really went over the edge and started ripping off drug dealers.” explained Kevin.
Kevin was very proud but very alone and one night, he just wanted to escape the house. “I went to the crown lounge for a few beers by myself. I sat down and heard someone yell, “Hey Ped!” and there at the end of the bar was my old friend Alex DeCubas who looked like a drug dealer with his entourage. I had heard rumors but didn’t want to believe it that he may be into drugs. He looked at me and said I know you are doing things your way and going by the book but I’m going to do things my way and I’ll be on top of the world. With that, he put his cigar out on his forehead. That was the moment I knew we were going to be enemies.”
In the late 1980’s Alex DeCubas had a new title to add to his collection. He was now one of the biggest smugglers in the United States. Alex started off stealing from other drug dealers and making a buck reselling what he stole. “Eventually Alex became so good at what he did, the big cartels decided that he would do good on their team, Pedersen explained. "I left the Army after four years due to my 1st wife’s illness. We were deployed a lot and I was a senior office with a lot of responsibility. I came to Homestead and worked for Jim Atkins at the Goodyear Tire Store. I was going to go back to school to get my master’s degree in business but Jim said work for me and I’ll teach you and he taught me everything.” explained Kevin. Unfortunately, his wife also got back into using illegal drugs, cocaine and marijuana, and his marriage spiraled down.
Kevin filed for divorce. He found himself one night on the floor in the apartment he rented with a gun in his hands, ready to blow his head off. “I felt like a failure.” He doesn’t know exactly what happened, he knows that it was the presence of God that night. He cried and gave his life over to the Lord. Kevin starts going to church and his faith strengthened.
He added, “I say that I was raised in the church but you know, just because you were raised in a garage it doesn’t make you a car. I don’t know how God felt about my relationship with him but I know for a fact that night, I surrendered everything to Him.
“After a lot of prayer, I decided that the Lord wanted me to work through the DEA so I applied to work for them. In the interim of being approved, I got my teaching certificate and taught school and also coached a wrestling team which I absolutely loved doing.” During that time, he started attending Bible studies at church and that is where he met his current wife, Michele. They married in 1990 and have two beautiful daughters.
In 1991 Kevin became a DEA agent.
“I wanted to take out the biggest and baddest drug dealers.” he explained. “I hated what I saw in the results of drugs. Drugs destroyed my first marriage and my home life. It affected my life, my family, my friends, my wife.”
The Colombia – Miami route was the popular way of importing drugs into the United States. How good was DeCubas in transporting drugs? Alex was so good that at one point, he built his own submarine to transport the drugs. But fortunately, it never was put into action.
“Alex had homes all over, yachts, jewelry and the finest clothes. He was at the top of the trade. He controlled the cocaine importation for the Colombian cartels for the entire United States. He brought in tons of cocaine. Not kilos…not thousands of kilos…. tons!”
“When I joined the DEA, DeCubas was already indicted and fled the country to Colombia. His stuff kept coming across my desk all the time and everyone was asking me if I was going after him. I was busy with other cases. You know, they asked me if I had to, would I have shot DeCubas. Of course, the answer is yes!” said Kevin.
“DeCubas was eventually caught and extradited to the US. I was there when they brought him into the courtroom to plead guilty. He received a thirty-year sentence and he cried when he saw me. He totally started to cooperate with the grand jury. We had pizza together before he went in and he helped the government in ways that few have. Based on his testimony and cooperation, his sentence was reduced and DeCubas served ten years and now is serving 5 years’ probation.”
Kevin has spent over a year working with ESPN to tell their story. The Pin Kings is currently available on ESPN Podcasts. The TV specials will begin August 22 at 8PM
Next week we conclude with Kevin's quest to heal Alex's spiritual Heart.