My mom knew I liked playing sports, so she would put me in all sorts of activities. I started martial arts around 7. I loved watching the Ninja Turtles and going outside and kicking trees. I had no idea what I was doing. The only reason I quit martial arts at 15 was because my instructor moved to Hawaii. I didn't want to start with someone new because, at that point, I had gotten my black belt.
When I was younger, everyone could tell I was a little bit more athletic. I started track in fifth grade, and the Olympics were a dream. I remember watching them on TV and saying "Oh, I want to go to the Olympics," but that was just like a kid saying "I want to be a fighter pilot." It just turns out I actually ended up taking that path.
The middle school days
Where I lived in La Pine, Ore., there were three little league baseball parks right next to each other. I started playing in the T-ball park when I was 5. When I eventually made it up to the "major league" park, I remember thinking "Sweet, I'm one of the good guys now." But by 14, I just got burned-out. I had played baseball for nine years at that point. I remember waking up one day for practice and saying, "You know what? I'm done." Instead, I focused on track, martial arts and football. I was a wide receiver on my middle school football team, the Pilot Butte Giants, but I couldn't catch with a helmet on. So I switched to running back and defensive back.
The high school years
My whole life I've been told I have athletic potential. I didn't know why people thought that, but I believed them. By my junior year [Mountain View High; Bend, Ore.], my learning curve kept going up while everyone else's was plateauing a little bit.
I didn't play football my freshman year. I think I was scared because I knew people would be bigger. So I just focused on track, but went back to play football my sophomore year because I loved the sport so much. I didn't even know how scholarships worked. My coach said, "Hey, I think you should go to college for track," and I'm like "OK." So I just left it at that. He started calling colleges around the area—USC, UCLA, Washington State, Oregon. When I was looking at colleges, I was hoping to play football, in addition to running track. But that limited me to DII and DIII schools. When Oregon and Washington State both showed interest, there was no question of my path. When I visited the Oregon campus, I was like, "Oh man, two hours from home, Eugene is cool." It was kind of a no-brainer.