A year ago, Brandon Scott was a rail-thin 5-foot, 1-inch, 94-pound freshman at La Canada High who sported the freckled Dennis-the-Menace look that bullies love to pounce on.
"I'd blend in with my 9-year-old brother and people thought I was his friend," said Scott, 15, who was often stuffed into trash cans and locked in gym lockers at school.
"He was a little man in a big person's world, and he had a mouth to go with it," said Scott's father, Robin.
Scott figured he had to do something to bulk up his bird-like body, revive his grades--which took a nose-dive when he started high school--and mend his wounded ego. He transferred to Crescenta Valley High and devoted his free time to gymnastics classes at the Crescenta-Canada Family YMCA, where he stayed until his ability surpassed the available equipment.
The more advanced classes at the Glendale YMCA have swelled Scott's confidence faster than his muscles, though. His arms still look too thin to carry his books home from school, let alone support a handstand.
But his new-found esteem has helped drive his grade-point average from 2.0 to 3.0 and helped him win the United States Gymnastics Federation state championship in rings and high bar and place fourth in the all-around last month at the New Hope Academy in Fountain Valley.
His performance at the state championship won him a berth in the last weekend's USGF Junior Olympic Western Regional Championships in Monterey, where Scott placed sixth overall.
Lately, Scott has been working out about three hours a day, five or six days a week. And his younger brothers Gavin, 11, and Trevor, 9, have followed suit.
That has become a cause for concern to some family friends, who say that by spending so much time in the gym, the boys are being burdened with an unnecessary pressure to perform. It's a possibility that has not escaped the boys' father.
"I've been involved as a CPA in the entertainment business for 20 years and I've seen the stage mothers," Robin said. "That's not what I want to be. It's just important for me to applaud whatever he wants to do."
The Scotts have much more to cheer now than they did after Brandon's first YMCA meet.
"That was a real tough pill for him to swallow," Robin said. "It was one of those thing where you put your arm around him and take a walk around the neighborhood."
And gymnastics didn't immediately get easier for Scott. Once, while trying a dismount from the rings in practice, he forgot to throw his arms out. A ring caught him in the back of the head, knocking him unconscious.
"I was doing a double," he said. "I did the first tuck and I heard a big smack and I just woke up on the ground."
Then there was the time he couldn't practice for a few days because his hands were torn and bleeding from two hours of practice on the pommel horse.
It is that dedication which impresses Rick Lopez, Scott's coach and a former All-American gymnast at San Jose State University.
"I see Brandon's potential as being unlimited at this point," Lopez said.
Scott said the encouragement he got from Peter Vidmar, a 1984 Olympic gold medalist, was vital to his success. Posters of Vidmar, who gave an inspirational talk at the Scott's church last year, decorate Brandon's bedroom and remind him that his size can be an asset.
"People respect me now," Scott said. "They'd say 'He doesn't do anything. He didn't go into football.' But now they know I'm in gymnastics and they don't make fun of me."