When a teenager loves to play football, his attitude can become contagious, inspiring teammates and even coaches.
Shaquelle Evans, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound junior receiver at Inglewood, is such a player.
His coach, Charles Mincy, calls him "SpongeBob" because "he's got a kid's demeanor."
Off the field, Evans is quiet, reserved, even bashful. Put him in pads and a transformation takes place.
"I just change," he said. "I just go crazy."
In Inglewood's season opener two weeks ago against Long Beach Wilson, he caught 10 passes for 212 yards and one touchdown in a 39-26 defeat.
"He was incredible," Mincy said.
When Inglewood quarterback Marlon Johnson spotted what Evans was doing on a simple hitch pattern -- suddenly going deep -- he heaved the ball and it resulted in a 77-yard touchdown.
"The corner came up, but I said I could run by this guy," Evans said. "The quarterback saw me, threw it up, I ran under it and got it. It was my first receiver touchdown. That's not going to be my last."
Evans was a youth football standout, having started playing at 5.
"I love it," he said. "Whenever you love something, you do it."
Last Friday morning, Evans was told to come to the weight room after second period because a couple of USC coaches had come to watch video.
When Evans saw it was Pete Carroll in the weight room, his legs started shaking.
"I was like, 'Oh my God. That's Pete Carroll, coach of the No. 1 team in the nation.' That was crazy," he said.
Mincy said Carroll and other college coaches are going to want to keep track of Evans this season.
"He can be one of the best receivers," he said.
Evans has speed, good hands and can jump. But it's his refreshing approach that gives him an edge.
"He goes on the field with a lot of attitude -- hyper, clowning, just having fun," Mincy said. "He's a good person and you want to root for him."
Of course, Evans also has a serious side. He has been raised by a single parent, his mother, Kalisha Wright, and wants to do well in school "so I can help her in the future."
He understands that decisions he makes have consequences.
"I know who to hang around with and who not to," he said. "I make sure I don't mess up."
As a receiver, Evans has determined what he needs to do to succeed.
"You have to be the best on the field," he said. "Once the ball is in the air, it's yours and you have to come down with it. You have to think that all the time."
Evans can't wait for Inglewood's next game tonight against visiting Malibu Kilpatrick.
"I love making plays, cheering my teammates on, winning, making people who guard me look bad, talking a little trash. . . . It's all fun," he said.
And that's what football should be all about.
You know a football program is doing something right when former players take time from their busy schedules to spend a couple of hours standing on the sideline, offering support and encouragement to the current players.
That's what Chris Galippo and Dan Klein were doing Saturday when Anaheim Servite rallied for a 17-7 victory over Corona Santiago. Galippo is a freshman linebacker at USC and Klein is a freshman pitcher at UCLA.
They're terrific role models and remain best friends, even though their college choices could create some interesting conflicts.
City Section football teams receive little respect from Southern Section schools, so understand the impact of Lake Balboa Birmingham's 20-7 victory over Long Beach Poly last week.
"It's great for the City," Birmingham Coach Ed Croson said.
Last season, the City champion Patriots lost to Poly, 48-6.
"I'm not saying we're better than Long Beach Poly," Croson said. "We caught them at the right time. It was divine intervention."
Eric Sondheimer can be reached at email@example.com.