Lavelle Hawkins, the All-American wide receiver from Edison High of Stockton (Calif.) and probably the No. 1 college prospect this year in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section, is one of those athletes. He lives in the south part of Stockton with his grandmother, Janet Curley.
"My mom is doing better now, and she's going to get her own place soon," said Hawkins when asked about his parents. "It's drugs........ My dad? He's passed away....... He was shot...... At least that's what my mom told me."
With that background, it's been Curley who has been the primary parent figure for Hawkins. She's also helped with Lavelle's brother and two sisters.
"Yeah, it is a lot to overcome," Hawkins said. "All this right now is for her. Of course, I'd like to make it someday and buy her a house. But I don't want to use any of that as an excuse."
Hawkins says this as he finishes up a lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Stockton. He was distracted for much of the meal looking through a copy of the High School Football annual co-produced by Student Sports and The Sporting News. Hawkins was ranked as the 49th best player in the Hot 100 recruiting list, but he didn't even appear to see what was written up about himself. He was too busy reading about other players, some he knew about and some he hoped to go up against.
"Randy Estes on the cover, huh?" Hawkins said of the Los Alamitos defensive back. "Do you think he'd be able to stop me?"
Another familiar face was evident a little deeper into the book.
"Cameron Colvin is definitely the man," Hawkins said of the Concord De La Salle wide receiver. "He and I were at the Miami camp together and we're friends. I wonder if he knows about this."
Hawkins reaches into his backpack, pulls out his cell phone, and punches in a number. It's Colvin's.
"Hey, it's Lavelle. Wanted to check you out to see about the sport magazine. Your picture is in there. It's pretty cool. Call me later if you want. Bye."
At that Miami camp, Colvin and Hawkins were possibly the top receivers present, despite the competition from Florida athletes.
"It was great, seeing how to work against certain coverages, how to adapt to others you haven't gone up against before," Hawkins said. "I really liked Coach Curtis Johnson."
A certain glint in his eye was evident when Hawkins mentioned the Hurricanes. It's unclear, though, whether Miami has offered him. He did say that of among 10 to 20 offers that have come in, that the first ones were from Oregon State and Tennessee.
Hawkins isn't the first athlete from Edison nor is he the first receiver out of Stockton to be heavily-recruited.
Lynell Hamilton and Chris Henry, both power-packed running backs with major speed (Henry was the 100-meter state sprint champ), were both Pac 10 Conference-type prospects just one year ago. Hamilton wound up at San Diego State, partly because his parents were so upset with what happened on a recruiting trip to Oregon that appeared to have included strip clubs. Henry, even though he was a back-up to Hamilton, signed with Arizona.
"I'm definitly going to take all my trips, but hopefully without the problems like the ones with Lynell," Hawkins said. "He just told me to make sure to pick your school, not what somebody else wants."
Hawkins' cousin, Ruben Jackson, also was on last year's team and has major college talent. He's going to national juco powerhouse City College of San Francisco, though, and in the summer showed what he could do on a spectacular 71-yard punt return touchdown in the local Lions All-Star Football Classic.
Hawkins mentioned Miami, Tennessee and LSU as among his own college favorites, but added that he "can't rule anybody out." He also has camped at USC (a favorite destination for many other Stockton players) and said his GPA of 3.1 and results from the ACT (he's still waiting) should make him qualified.
This season, with Hamilton, Jackson, Henry and others graduated and a new head coach, Hawkins will have to be even more of a leader if Edison hopes to get past the likes of Lincoln, St. Mary's and West of Tracy and gain a spot in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs. Another key returnee for the Vikings is linebacker Wes Mauga, a 6-1, 230-pounder who also has Div. I college potential.
"I'd love to get 2,000 yards receiving, but I'm not sure about our quarterbacks," he said. "I really want to get picked for the Califlorida game. Cameron on one side, me on the other. That would be a lot of fun."