You've heard this story before: star RB chooses game over gang. But what happens when that kid was raised by a notorious banger? Jack Sula and his stepdad are learning.
The unlit scoreboard casts a shadow as Jack Sula hauls his workout bag across Carson High's patchy turf. In his final game here this past November—LA's city semifinal—the six-foot, 205-pound senior rumbled for 193 yards through several inches of mud. UCLA recruit Johnathan Franklin, of rival Dorsey High, struggled for all of his 39 yards. But Sula, with only a handful of mid-major offers, was hell-bent on proving he belonged in the Pac-10 too. He scored a first- quarter touchdown, and the home crowd shouted his name. His TD proved to be the game's only score when, as a linebacker, he ended a last-minute drive by nailing Franklin in the backfield on a goal-line stand. But as Sula works out alone today—Feb. 6, 2008, national signing day—his cell phone sits as silent as the empty bleachers.
Later in the afternoon, Jack's stepfather, Jerry Misaalefua, stands in line at a nearby post office, with padded envelopes wedged under his massive, heavily tattooed arms. As always, the 300-pound Samoan feels people staring at his jailhouse ink, which tells the story of his 29 years running a Bloods-affiliated gang called West Side Piru (Pimps in Red Uniforms) that he formed before reaching puberty. Jerry says WSP now has 300 local members, and "branches" from Seattle to Okinawa and Samoa. And nobody is more feared in Carson than this 40-year-old man they still call BadBoy, even though he has dropped his colors. But today, Jerry is just a father. While other men watch their sons fax signed letters of intent to USC and LSU and Michigan, Jerry mails out Jack's highlight videos, hoping to find his stepson a ride out of town.
WHEN JACK WAS 7, he watched his older cousin Chui play Pop Warner on the Carson High field. Jack's dark eyes lit up with every collision. "Daddy," the pudgy kid said while tugging Jerry's long red shirt, "I want to play football like that." Amused, Jerry crouched and, softening his gritty baritone, asked, "You want to play tackle?"
"You're not gonna be scared?"