PASADENA -- Some call the Community Arms housing project dangerous. Others call it treacherous, thus the ominous nickname: the Snake Pits.
Kevon Seymour simply calls it home.
The highly-touted senior for the Muir High School football team has spent 17 years growing up in the neighborhood, known to be as tough as they come in the greater Los Angeles area. Seymour is fully aware of the, often times, unforgiving streets surrounding him. He possesses a good understanding about the constant threat of gang activity looming outside his door.
Nevertheless, Seymour has avoided hanging out with the wrong crowd. Developing bad habits was never an option. Succumbing to peer pressure was not in the cards. Instead, he has focused his time and energy on doing something better with his life.
“I'm a leader, not a follower,'' Seymour said.
And therein lies the key. He has successful navigated the numerous potential pitfalls in his path, both on and off the field. Given his life experiences, it should come as no surprise to learn Seymour has provided the Mustangs (4-3 overall) with an immeasurable presence this season as they head into Friday night's Pacific League game against Burbank Burroughs.
"Where I come from, they call it the Snake Pits for a reason,'' Seymour said. “There is a lot of fighting, gang violence and crime that goes on around here. I see it all the time. I've had friends who have been in some trouble. I know it happens in other places too. Where I live isn't as bad as some places. But I have seen some crazy things in my life.
“All that stuff isn't me though. I'm smarter than that. I'm also lucky. I have a good family life and there are a lot of people in my community who look after me. They want me to be a success. I'm motivated to make a difference, to do something special.''
Seymour is doing just that: Making a difference.
Earlier this year, Muir coach Ken Howard was placed on administrative leave for an alleged physical altercation with a student. Without Howard, the Mustangs were at a crossroads. The program was seemingly in disarray.
Seymour, a three-year varsity starter, emerged as the team leader, and the transition appeared to be somewhat natural.
“Kevon is stand-up young man, that's what is so impressive about him, you can tell he was raised the right way,'' interim Muir coach Dave Mitchell said.
Despite being recruited by quite a few of the country's top colleges as a defensive back, Seymour has played on both sides of the ball this season for the Mustangs. His number has been called for special teams too.
He scored on a 52-yard touchdown reception in the season opener. And for good measure, Seymour added a 59-yard punt return before game's end. Three weeks later, he found the end zone on a 95-yard kickoff return. The highlights have been many.
“He's our main man, no doubt, Kevon can do it all,'' Mitchell said. “Any time you have a player like him, you want to get the ball in his hands as much as humanly possible. He tends to create matchup problems all over the field. Teams always take notice of him. They better too. Kevon is one of those special athletes with an incredible football IQ.
“On defense, he's lights out. Kevon is a lock-down corner. You can leave him out there on an island and not have to worry about things. He takes away one side of the field on a regular basis. Quarterbacks don't throw in his direction often. I wouldn't either.''
Most of the country's top scouts and several of the nation's powerhouse programs, are constantly keeping close tabs on Seymour.
ESPN Recruiting considers the 5-foot-11, 170-pounder as one of the Southland's premier prospects. Seymour is the No. 24 ranked athlete overall.
He has more than 15 scholarship offers on the table. Florida, Nebraska and Oregon are among a hoard of potential suitors. Multiple Pac-12 Conference schools are interested, most notably nearby USC. Notre Dame and Tennessee are in the mix as well.
His cumulative 3.2 GPA certainly helps matters.
“All of the colleges want him, he's that talented,'' Mitchell said. “It must be nice to have those kind of options, and the only way something like that happens is, you must have your head on straight and be willing to work hard. Kevon has done those things.''
To think, one wrong step during the formative years living in Community Arms, or the Snake Pits, and his future could have been drastically different.
Seymour is living proof that an individual does not necessarily become a product of his environment, whether it be good, bad or indifferent.
“Honestly, I never worried about Kevon getting mixed up in the wrong crowd, even with all the gang-bangers around our neighborhood all the time,'' said his mother, Veronica Starling Donald. “There were some temptations for him, I'm sure. He has always been a smart boy though. Deep down inside, I have known Kevon would make something of himself.''
All signs point to Seymour heading in the right direction.
Turbulent upbringing, or not, he has stayed the course.
“Growing up in the Snake Pits is part of who I am,'' Seymour said. “It's not always about where you're from though. It's also about where you're going in life.''
Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.