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November 9, 2012
MURRIETA, Calif. -- Su'a Cravens opened his speech at his U.S. Army All-American Bowl jersey presentation ceremony by thanking his teammates, coaches and family. Those were the obvious ones. But he also took the time to thank his teachers, the cheerleaders and even the band that stood in front of him.
The courtyard at Vista Murrieta was packed with students, faculty and onlookers standing behind Cravens, a five-star prospect and Rivals.com's top-rated safety in the 2013 class.
After the ceremony, a student approached Cravens and asked him to sign his forehead with a pen. Yes, that really happened. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound standout smartly opted to sign and date a piece of notebook paper.
That kid might want to take good care of it.
Cravens is the highest-rated player ever at this school, the best player in talent-rich California and super-stardom is written all over him -- from the way he talks, to the way he carries himself, to the way he plays on Friday nights.
But Cravens, rated eighth overall by Rivals.com, has also found a happy medium of never getting too self-confident (his dad makes sure of it) and never acting bigger than anyone else.
Before the Army ceremony started, Cravens was seen talking with some fellow students outside a classroom before chatting with the media. During the presentation, he sat next to his family, said a few thoughtful words about being invited to the Army game, did some interviews and all the while never seemed too big for it.
"That man right there," Cravens said, pointing to his father, "that dude is not letting me do that. He's not letting me get comfortable and think I'm as good as they say I am. I believe that. I don't think I'm as good as some reporters say I am and I don't think I'm as bad as some reporters say I am. I just go out there and play my game.
"You're nothing without your fans. You could be the best football player and your team is going to love you, but there are commentators and the fans who are watching you and that's who you have to give back to. I always think to myself, the people who come out to the games, that's who I'm going to give the most thanks to because it's going to be boring if there are no fans there. I've never forgotten that."
Cravens, who's been committed to USC since June, always gives the fans at Vista Murrieta games something to remember. He is expected to play safety for the Trojans, but some say he might be the best wide receiver in the state, too. He lines up at running back and also moves down to play linebacker in certain sets.
Wherever he plays, Cravens can do something special and it always looks so effortless and easy for him.
"It has a purpose," Vista Murrieta coach Coley Candaele said. "When he plays, it's very purposeful. He enjoys the game very much. He's not a kid who is into the social scenes. He's into football. Not that he doesn't have friends and he doesn't have fun, but he makes sure football, he understands the game and where he should be and he watches film. He cares about what he's doing and the performance of his team around him."
He also cares very much for USC. Cravens made it perfectly clear that he's not backing away from his commitment to the Trojans and that he will not take any other official visits and plans to be an early enrollee.
In Cravens' mind, college football recruiting is finished. His focus turns to a big playoff run for a talented Vista Murrieta team and then off to San Antonio for the Army game.
It will be his first time on an airplane, but Cravens said he isn't nervous.
"I like roller coasters, so it shouldn't be a big thing," he said.