Having lived most of his life in a housing project in Watts, 16-year-old Marquis Ware of L.A. Salesian has encountered experiences he wishes never happened.
The sounds of gunshots at night. The sight of black water flowing into a tub. The stress of deciding which is the safest path to walk.
It's a peek into what motivates Ware each time he steps onto the football field or opens a book in a classroom. He's a 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior defensive end who had 14 sacks and 79 tackles as a sophomore.
Football and schoolwork present opportunities for Ware to get to college and thus help himself and his family.
"I really have to make it," he said.
Staying out of trouble is no easy task. He views Salesian as a place to escape to a different world.
"A lot of kids ask, 'How do I do it?'" Ware said. "I either stay in the house or go to a friend's house or come to school. I don't really want to go home. I wake up at 6, come here, stay to 6 p.m. It's safe."
Ware's football potential is just beginning to come out. He had no idea what he was capable of accomplishing.
"To tell you the truth, I didn't think I'd have any sacks because it was my first year on varsity," he said.
He was learning to play defensive end after transferring from L.A. Cathedral, and his coaches taught him technique and strategy.
"They told me what I need to do and how I need to do it, and it made me better," he said.
Athletic, quick and strong, Ware continues to learn the position. He spent much of the summer attending combines and camps while picking up tips on how to use his hands and feet.
"He's just a great athlete," Coach Roddy Hiatt said. "He's just a good kid who works hard."
The Inland Empire is home to three of the Southland's top linemen in USC-bound Kylie Fitts of Redlands East Valley, UCLA-bound Kenneth Clark of Rialto Carter and heavily recruited Joe Mathis of Upland. Ware will be trying to emulate them this season.
Ware also makes an impact for Salesian on offense playing tight end. Hiatt said he has "a great set of hands."
In the end, though, everything will revolve around Ware's willingness and determination to keep getting better.
"Football has taught me a lot, how to be a man, how to be disciplined," he said.
The challenge for Ware is staying focused on the future and what it would mean.
"It's been rough," he said. "That's why I really want to make it to get my mom to a better place."