I.E.: You don't have to like football to like these stories

Some uplifting reads have popped up the last few days on the HS Game Time website, which is part of the Riverside Press-Enterprise. Each story has a common theme, a high school senior from the Inland Empire overcomes tough odds to become a great football player and open bigger doors in his life.

The paths they took couldn't be more varied, however.

Will Holden writes about Riverside Ramona quarterback T.J. Miller, who spent part of his childhood fending for himself while his parents were sidetracked by drug use. The story opens with Holden describing the morning of Miller's first day of kindegarten. He woke himself, made breakfast for his younger brother and found his way to school ... alone.

Fast forward 10 years and Miller has drawn so much interest and curiosity from his performances at spring combines, an assistant coach from Harvard flew cross country just to meet him in person.

Then there’s this piece by John Murphy (aka PrepDawg) on Davien Payne of Perris Citrus Hill, probably the best running back in the Inland Empire this season. Payne has spent nearly his entire life in foster care or living with distant relatives, Murphy writes, but followed the right advice along the way and this summer committed to play college football at Colorado.

Holden also writes an interesting profile on Temecula Chaparral linebacker Tanner Ritayik, who sat out last season shortly after becoming a father. Instead of making tackles, he worked close to 30 hours a week for his father’s construction company, doing what he could to support his new family. Ritayik rejoined the team this season and might be one of the biggest hidden jewels in the I.E.

Stories like these often get lost in the buzz of rankings, recruiting and Friday nights, especially when they involve a second or third stringer. Nothing like a triple dose of reality to remind us that football might be just a game for some, but can also be a path to a brighter future for others.