If Edward Cho ever wins a Nobel Prize in medicine, credit football for lessons that helped inspire him to make a difference.
A math genius with a 4.4 grade-point average, Cho was the starting offensive tackle at North Hollywood Campbell Hall this season. He scored 1,520 on the SAT, with a perfect 800 on the math portion of the test.
He plans to study biomedical engineering in college, with the hope of designing and developing products that could lead to breakthroughs in organ transplants and prosthetics.
"We still don't have an artificial kidney yet," he said. "We have manufactured blood outside the human body, but it doesn't work efficiently."
Cho wants to find solutions to those problems and others, and playing football gave him the confidence to never stop trying.
"Because of football, I feel I can do anything I put my mind to," he said.
Cho is one of dozens of high school seniors who will be honored over the next month as part of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame scholar-athlete program.
He'll join 54 seniors Thursday night at the Odyssey Restaurant in Granada Hills as part of an awards banquet sponsored by the San Fernando Valley chapter.
"He's one of the most well-rounded kids I've ever coached," Campbell Hall football Coach Russell Gordon said.
From serving as an editor for his school newspaper to attending church every Sunday, Cho is headed for a life that focuses on helping others.
"It's sort of an obligation I have," he said. "By making something that saves lives, I'll be doing something that contributes to the world."
These scholar-athletes are why teachers teach and coaches coach. They deserve ovations for proving that academic and athletic excellence can be accomplished simultaneously.
From Orange County to the Inland Empire, from the San Gabriel Valley to South Los Angeles, these scholar-athletes are the next generation of community leaders.
There's Kurt Thomas, a tight end from Reseda who earned a 3.5 GPA attending the school's police academy magnet program. He wants to be a film editor and understands the importance of being a scholar-athlete recipient.
"It means a lot," he said. "I work hard in the classroom. I work hard on the field, and it's paying off."
There's Garrett Mosley, a defensive back from Westlake Village Westlake who plans to be a pre-med student at Cal Lutheran. By next month, he should have his pilot's license. As a football player who wants to be a doctor, Mosley said, "I'm glad they honor kids who try to keep their grades up."
There's Steve Craig, an offensive lineman from Moorpark. He's an accomplished pianist who wants to attend USC and become a lawyer.
As part of a final requirement to become an Eagle Scout, he had to organize a service project. He chose to help create and distribute hats for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
"We try to make their lives a little better because happiness is essential for recovery," he said.
There's Mike Drachkovich, a linebacker from Sherman Oaks Notre Dame who has a 4.1 GPA and wants to become a television producer. He produces a weekly campus television show. His experiences playing for a 14-0 football team provided him with examples of character that he plans to carry with him.
"I'm already missing it, but it was the best time of my life," he said. "It was all of us that got us there, not just one person."
There's Camryn Prevost, a linebacker from Antelope Valley who had an eight-week summer internship working for NASA. Now he wants to become a mechanical engineer.
"It was very inspiring," he said of working at the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base. "It opened so many opportunities for me."
There's Jonathon Blair, an offensive lineman and Eagle Scout from Garden Grove Pacifica who has a 4.3 GPA and plays piano, drums and bass guitar. He wants to study business with a possible career in real estate. He said because of football, he understands that "you just don't get things in life; you have to work hard."
There's Mike Roy from Whittier La Serna who has a 4.3 GPA and was the team's standout quarterback and kicker. He refuses to give up on his football aspirations, so he's going to play for a junior college before focusing on a career in business.
As for Cho, he seems committed to becoming a medical researcher and inventor. While he probably won't be talking much football with his colleagues, he won't forget what the sport taught him.
"I learned you can accomplish anything as a team," he said.
Eric Sondheimer can be reached at email@example.com.