Says Josh Schuster of beginning his high school days at Simi Valley with… (Schuster family photo )
If you're feeling down or need a little inspiration, attend one of the banquets being held over the next month by local chapters of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame recognizing the Southland's top scholar-athletes.
When you shake hands with one of the teenage recipients, it's a certainty that you'll be meeting someone who's going to save a life as a doctor, soldier, firefighter or police officer. You could be meeting a future judge, lawyer, scientist, councilman, teacher or entrepreneur.
Every year, I look forward to reading the bios and seeing the grade-point averages of the honorees. Suddenly, despite predictions of gloom and doom, you feel good about the future. You begin to understand that there are parents, coaches and teachers who are truly making a difference in molding the next generation of leaders.
Kian Samadian, a receiver from West Hills Chaminade, has a 4.47 GPA and is president of the rocket club. He gets A's in Advanced Placement Biology, AP Physics and AP Calculus. He's going to study medicine.
Austin deMaille, a running back from Newbury Park, has a 4.8 GPA and is headed to MIT, where he intends to become an engineer. One of his dreams is to build a prosthetic device "to help people in their daily lives."
Daniel Marbach, a lineman from Burbank Burroughs, is an Eagle Scout who scored a perfect 600 on the California State Test for biology.
Eduardo Murillo, a receiver from Lake Balboa Birmingham, has run in three Los Angeles Marathons and is president of the robotics club.
Adam Markun, a running back at Calabasas Viewpoint, has a 4.3 GPA. He's so proficient speaking Chinese that he spent the summer working as an intern in Quingdao.
Ricky Wolff, a lineman at Encino Crespi, has a 4.4 GPA. He was 10 points away from a perfect SAT. He could be the class valedictorian and is headed to Columbia.
One award given out every year by the San Fernando Valley chapter is for the football player who had the most improved grade-point average. This year's recipient is receiver Josh Schuster of Simi Valley.
During the first 10 weeks of his sophomore year, Schuster's GPA was 1.2.
"I was more focused on being in the clique or being the cool guy on campus," he said.
He was ineligible for the last football game of his sophomore year. Then, during the summer, he had a talk with his parents and his brother, a Marine.
"One day, I realized I was wasting my life," he said. "I wasn't taking things seriously."
When his brother and a football coach told him he had a chance to start on varsity, it added motivation. Last semester, his GPA was 3.8. He started at receiver for the Pioneers. He could be joining the Navy this fall if he doesn't receive an offer to play football at a small college.
"I learned you can't take school for granted," he said. "You only have a certain amount of time and have to make the most of it."
His brother, David, is a sergeant in the Marines who just returned from deployment in Afghanistan.
"He's told me many times that he's proud of the changes he's seen in me and the hard work I've put in," he said.
Schuster will be honored at the banquet on March 18 at the Sportsmen's Lodge in Studio City. The Orange County chapter holds its banquet on Monday night at the Anaheim Convention Center. The Los Angeles chapter celebrates its 50th anniversary on March 15 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Culver City. The Pasadena-San Gabriel Valley chapter has its banquet on March 26 at Brookside Country Club.
The banquets honor individuals for what they've accomplished on the field, in the classroom and in their community.
Asked what he learned through football, Schuster said, "You need to have leadership and step up in tough times."