As difficult as it is for high school football players--even great ones-- to catch the eye of a college recruiter, imagine how frustrating it must be for a gifted player on a team that was 2-8 last season, and is 0-2 this season.
And the fact that he's an offensive lineman, stuck in the trenches away from the publicity and limelight that showers the so-called "skill-position" players, increases the degree of difficulty.
Then imagine the youngster actually attracting the scouts, taking a little of the limelight for himself.
Meet Joe Ferguson, a 6-4, 245-pound guard for Hoover High.
"Out of the whole team, he's probably the only one that's going to play college football," said Joe Masuzawa, a 5-10, 190-pound lineman who plays next to Ferguson. "Hoover doesn't turn out too many great football players."
But every once in a while, a player like Ferguson surfaces.
Twice he has been named All-Pacific League, including his sophomore season when the team was 8-2 and made the Coastal Conference playoffs. In recruiting circles, Ferguson has made a name for himself.
"Joe has good size, moves well and he's an aggressive kid," said Dick Lascola, who operates a Southern California recruiting service. "He has the fundamentals that every college is looking for."
And they are looking. Ferguson said he has been contacted by USC, UCLA, Pitt and Colorado. A stellar senior season likely would draw more attention.
Ferguson, 17, said the final analysis may come from how well he performs off the field. An average student, he retook a class last summer to improve his grade-point average.
"I know that if I don't do well on the field and in the classroom," he said, "those schools won't be looking at me anymore."
Ferguson, one of the Tornadoes' captains, is respected as much for his attitude as his ability.
"He's a big motivator of the team," Masuzawa said. "He's really aggressive. He's always looking for someone else to hit."
Which has been a bonus for Hoover Coach Dennis Hughes.
"He's been a real special kid to me," Hughes said. "Most big kids in high school are like teddy bears. He's anything but a teddy bear."
During a game last season against Glendale, Ferguson lost control. He was ejected after a referee saw him push a Glendale player. Ferguson insisted that the player had been holding him down and Ferguson pushed the referee.
It was a move he clearly regrets. It is also a move that appears out of character.
"He's worked very hard to get where he is," said Fred Cuccia, who coached Ferguson in 1985 before taking over at South Pasadena. "He was there every morning at 7 when we did our running. And he's jumped rope and lifted weights on his own."
Ferguson has also worked on his attitude. Despite the team's shortcomings so far this season, he has remained optimistic.
"We're one play away from turning into a good team," he said. "We've just made some mental mistakes. At first I was wondering what this season was going to be like.
"But now I know we can be good. It's just time to give a little bit more."