Basketball was my first love. I was about 4 or 5 when I started. We had a hoop nailed to the top of our garage. Growing up in LA during the '80s, it was all about the Showtime Lakers. I also played Little League baseball when I was 6 or 7 for about two years. I played center field. I didn't think it was much fun. It was too slow, a lot of waiting around.
The middle school days
I started playing football when I was 11 because my older brother played. On my school team, I was a quarterback, receiver, running back -- I was the guy scoring all the touchdowns. Then my first year in Pop Warner, they put me on the offensive line, at right tackle, because I was tall. Eventually I played fullback and tight end. I got my first taste of organized basketball when I was about 11. I played point guard all the way through high school.
My brother is a year older than me, and playing with his friends was great training for me. Growing up, the difference between ages 12 and 13 is really, like, five years. So the fact that I was able to hold my own against them and have everybody talking about me at the parks -- I knew, with hard work, I would be capable of going beyond what people thought were my limits.
The high school years
In high school [Narbonne High; Los Angeles], I played quarterback, running back or receiver, and on D, I was a free safety or corner. Throughout high school I was always among the top athletes, but I was never the best, never the fastest or most athletic. I was a late bloomer.
Whatever came up in high school—recruiting or otherwise—my brother was really the guy who led. Some schools were already recruiting me because I'd made some lists, like the All-American. But there were some schools that wanted to recruit me that I really liked, like UCLA and Notre Dame. So my senior year, I made my own highlights tape and wrote a letter to the DB coaches and defensive coordinators. And it worked. Back then, we didn't have Rivals.com, so you had to do it yourself. I was always the type of guy who just went with the flow. I just felt like, OK, the next step's gonna be college, then the next step's gonna be the NFL. But I never had dreams about it, and I never really had a Plan B, so thankfully, it worked out.