Sean Cheatham of Rancho Alamitos High School spent five days in football hell, and never stopped smiling.
Cheatham, The Times' Player of the Week, was the only player to survive the Vaqueros' Hell Week last month without a single complaint.
"We were always asking ourselves, 'What can we do to break this kid?,' " Rancho Alamitos Coach Mark Miller said.
"But no matter what we did or how much we put him through, he never lost that silly grin. When things got even tougher, he just kept smiling like he wanted more."
Cheatham, a senior running back/safety, wants to be the best.
Friday night, he scored all 30 points in the Vaqueros' 30-14 season-opening victory over Buena Park.
Cheatham rushed for 166 yards in 26 carries, completed a pass for 37 yards and scored 4 touchdowns and 3 two-point conversions.
He also made four solo tackles and had three assists, caused a fumble and recovered a fumble.
A great performance, indeed, but was Cheatham surprised?
"No, I wasn't surprised," he said. "I wasn't even nervous before the game."
Cheatham's confidence is bred not by cockiness but by commitment to conditioning. His has a work ethic that has yet to be matched by his teammates, Miller said.
"I've seen intense players before, but never any so consistent," Vaquero offensive guard Jesse Martinez said. "He never comes off the field. His effort is different from anyone I've ever seen. If there's even a tiny hole in the defense, he'll get through it, then get more yards with a little extra stretch or a lunge.
"Yesterday, we had a killer practice, and afterward, when we were walking home, he was telling me how (during the toughest drills) he was just relaxing and watching the sun go down and thinking about the cool breeze on his neck. He's like that every day. He knows how to block out pain."
Cheatham said his game plan is always the same: Continually set small goals, then go after them with no holds barred.
"I try to push myself all the time," he said. "It's the only way I can keep my mental attitude tough for games. You have to stay focused to get things done. It's all attitude."
But what keeps him constantly smiling?
"Well, I know he (Miller) is trying to break me," Cheatham said. "So every time he tells me to do more, I sort of laugh. It's just a way to get through it. Of course, I get a kick out of it, too."
Rancho Alamitos High School
Position: Running Back/Safety.
Height, Weight, Class: 5-11, 190, Senior.
Last Week: Cheatham scored all 30 points in the Vaqueros' 30-14 victory over Buena Park Friday. Cheatham rushed for 166 yards in 26 carries, completed a pass for 37 yards and scored 4 touchdowns and 3 two-point conversions. Cheatham also had four solo tackles and three assists, caused a fumble and recovered a fumble.