Scott Leing took the long road to Brea Olinda. Raising their family in Cambodia, Leing's parents longed for a better life in the United States. In the mid-1980s, they went through extreme efforts to get here.
"All my mom was telling me is that there were times and situations where she would give me codeine to knock me out because we were crossing the border into Thailand," Leing said. "The Thai guards basically had the command to shoot to kill anyone who was crossing over because they knew we were trying to get to the Americas."
After safely reaching the U.S. Embassy in Thailand, Leing and his family landed in Salt Lake City, then moved to Garden Grove for two years. It was about then that he grew to love football. He began playing Pop Warner in the fourth grade.
Six years later, Leing has developed into the most valuable player on the Brea Olinda football team, and one of the premier athletes in Orange County.
"He may be the toughest kid I've ever coached," Brea Olinda Coach Jon Looney said. "He's the one guy we could not have afforded to lose."
Leing is a three-year starter for the Wildcats at cornerback and running back. He has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons and has been a mainstay in the defensive backfield. He has a 4.0 grade-point average and hopes to continue playing at Air Force or Navy.
"It's been a long time since I've seen a kid play both offense and defense through the whole season," Looney said. "I can't remember him ever coming out of a game."
Leing says he builds his endurance by pushing himself during preseason workouts.
"The best thing I've learned is that during Hell Week you've got to push yourself," he said. "Especially when you have pads on, you have to push yourself even harder because I'm expected to go both ways."
Leing, who also wrestles and runs track, prefers the thrill of running the ball over the feel of deflecting a pass or colliding shoulder to shoulder with a ball carrier.
"On offense you have to think more," he said. "Defense is pretty easy, you just go out and kill the guy with the ball."
With Brea Olinda fielding a younger offensive line than the past two seasons, Leing predicts he'll have to be a little more creative once he takes a handoff.
"We do have an inexperienced line, but I look at those guys and they're all pretty strong and quick." he said. "I think the quickness with our line will allow us to go outside more, and that's where I think I'm better. I'm not the type of player to run up the middle; a little off the tackle and sweeps is where I think I excel."
Leing doesn't think twice about bouncing outside if the hole closes up too early. But his ability to improvise on the run is not the only aspect of his game that has caught the eye of other coaches in league.
"He's a good solid running back and has the ability to break tackles," Valencia Coach Mike Marrujo said. "This kid really emerged last season. He got better as the season went on."
Leing's best game late last season was against Magnolia, when he rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns in leading the Wildcats to a 27-20 come-from-behind victory. Leing scored only eight touchdowns as a junior, mostly because he wasn't the main option in Brea Olinda's goal-line offense.
"This year I should get the ball in the red zone more often," Leing said.