Sometimes, good guys finish first, and that's what happened to 16-year-old Tevin Carter, the youngest of four siblings raised by a single mother.
He enrolled at the newly opened Los Angeles Santee Education Complex four years ago and has gone from relative anonymity to being recognized as one of the fastest, most talented athletes in the City Section.
There were signs of Carter's potential last fall during football season when he ran back four kickoffs for touchdowns and caught 28 passes for 833 yards and 11 touchdowns. But it wasn't until spring that the veil of uncertainty was completely removed.
That's when he won the City 200-meter track championship. A year earlier, Carter wasn't even fast enough to qualify for the finals.
"After I won, everybody knew me," Carter said. "I had interviews coming left to right. That helped me blow up. I didn't expect it. I wasn't favored to win. I was favored to come in second."
His phone started ringing. Even though he had made what he called a "soft" commitment to Washington, recruiters from USC, California and other schools were intrigued by what they had heard.
In late June, he said he made a "firm" commitment to California.
At Santee, Carter became the first true athletic celebrity since the school opened in 2005.
"Everybody knows who I am now," he said. " 'That's Tevin,' they whisper, but I'm the type of guy who will talk to you no matter who I am or who you are."
His coach, Joe Kearney, knew all along it was only a matter of time before the rest of Los Angeles discovered what he already had seen from the 6-foot-2, 186-pound Carter.
"He's a coach's dream," Kearney said.
When it comes to hard work, listening to his coaches and taking care of business in the classroom, Carter does it all and more.
"A lot of people are just now hearing about him, but he's always been a tremendous talent," Kearney said.
"We saw him as a young kid emerge and knew he'd be something special. He's always been fast. I think he's gotten stronger and matured. He's really worked hard to get where he is."
Although track put him on the map, including a third-place finish in the 200 at the state championships and a fourth-place finish in the 100, it's football where Carter hopes to make his greatest impact.
"The thing is, he has a knack for the end zone," Kearney said. "Once we get him the ball, it's as if he smells the end zone."
Carter hasn't rested on what he accomplished in track. He has worked on improving his catching skills.
"I have more confidence coming into this season," he said. "I'm planning on being quicker off the ball and trying to explode. I'm getting better catching balls I couldn't catch."
With a 3.3 grade-point average and a determination to keep getting better, Carter has put himself and his school in position to gain recognition.
"I'm not finished yet," he said. "I still have life to come. I'm not going to let something like this blow my head up. I'm going to keep working hard and push to be the best."
Monday: defensive linemen.
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Top 10 high school wide receivers
*--* PLAYER SCHOOL HT, WT CLASS COMMENT Kevin Anderson Lakewood 6-0, 180 Senior Arizona State commit had 50 catches, 15 TDs. Nat Bellamy Loyola 6-0, 180 Senior Transfer from Oregon is impact player. Victor Blackwell Mater Dei 6-2, 190 Junior Big-play weapon has Tennessee offer. Tevin Carter Santee 6-2, 186 Senior City 200-meter champ is someone to watch. George Farmer Gardena Serra 6-2, 205 Junior Serra is loaded at receiver. Anthony Jefferson Cathedral 6-2, 180 Senior Ready to earn respect. Jordan Payton Oaks Christian 6-0, 190 Soph. Was a summer sensation. Paul Richardson Jr. Serra 6-1, 175 Senior Los Alamitos transfer has lots of ability. Zach Tartabull Valencia 6-0, 185 Senior Watch him dominate in Foothill League. Robert Woods Gardena Serra 6-1, 185 Senior USC commit had 81 receptions, 19 TDs. *--*
An expanded list is available at www.latimes.com/preps.