Quit making excuses.
That's the message receiver-cornerback Richard Sherman of Compton Dominguez passes on to friends and teammates when they fail to do their homework or put off studying for a test.
There's authority in what Sherman says because he's on the verge of becoming the first football player from Dominguez in more than 20 years to achieve the academic and athletic credentials needed to receive a scholarship to Stanford.
The Dons have 12 players in the college ranks this season, including three at two-time defending national champion USC. But if Sherman is accepted at Stanford, "that would be great for our program," co-coach Keith Donerson said.
The Compton Unified School District hasn't been known for academic excellence. From 1993 to 2001, it was taken over by the state because of failing academics and financial situation.
With a 4.1 grade-point average and the kind of athleticism that enabled him to leap 49 feet 5 3/4 inches in the triple jump as a junior, Sherman is proof that academic and athletic success can be mastered at Dominguez.
He has been encouraging and cajoling others to join him.
"I'm trying my best to get them where I'm going, to the college level," he said. "I'm helping them study for the SAT. A lot of people come in blind in what they need to know, not knowing one day they could be a top college prospect."
Sherman said his parents were adamant that he pay attention to studying and learning.
"They stayed on me," he said. "They checked on my schoolwork, checked on my teachers, came to open house."
His mother, Beverly, added a little incentive. She paid him $5 for every A.
"I don't mind rewarding him when he's doing well," she said. "He's costing me whatever the report card says."
As a football player, 6-foot-3, 175-pound Sherman has big-play skills. Dominguez rarely passes, but when it does, Sherman comes through. He's averaging 33.4 yards per catch with 13 receptions for 435 yards and six touchdowns.
Sherman's 37-inch vertical leap gives quarterback Marvin Johnson confidence that if he throws the ball up, Sherman will likely pull it down.
He also uses his aggressiveness and 4.6 40-yard speed to be a standout at cornerback.
Sherman has helped lead Dominguez to a 7-1 record, including an overtime victory over defending Southern Section Division I champion Long Beach Poly.
But the Dons don't look upon the victory over Poly as a defining moment for their program. Their focus is on unbeaten Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, which beat them in last year's Division III final, 38-21.
One week after the defeat, the Dons were back in the weight room, with a photo from the game as a reminder.
"We're trying to take it one game at a time, but we have to have them in the back of our mind," Sherman said.
The Southern Section is so convinced about the attractiveness of a Notre Dame-Dominguez matchup that the Division III championship game has been scheduled for the Home Depot Center on Dec. 10.
Meanwhile, Sherman keeps pressing on, working on his grades and his teammates.
"He's absolutely driven," his counselor, Ken Dawkins, said. "He comes into my classroom and always wants to know his standing."
Asked what he likes about football, Sherman said, "I like it as a team sport. You need all 11 to make it work. I like depending on them."
Sherman still has to complete his Stanford application and get past the admission process, but he seems in good shape to make it.
"It's really a huge accomplishment, and we're very proud," his mother said.
Sherman is going to become an example for coaches and teachers to use to remind future students at Dominguez what can be accomplished on and off the playing field.
Eric Sondheimer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org