For De’Shawn Ramirez, playing in the Hall of Fame All-Star Game for the West team on Friday has more meaning than it would to most.
You see, the Monrovia High School all-purpose standout’s prep career is light by 14 games. The reason for that is simple. Like many teenagers before him and many to come, Ramirez made a mistake. A bad mistake.
The exact infraction, which occurred toward the end of Ramirez’s sophomore year, was not made public by the school because he was a minor at the time. But it was bad enough to cost the then-rising football star his entire junior season after he was expelled from school.
It would be the first time since age 4 that Ramirez didn’t have some form of football in his life. As Ramirez sat out and wondered if he’d ever play at Monrovia again, the Wildcats won the first of back-to-back CIF Mid-Valley Division championships.
“Football, to me, is a really big part of life,” Ramirez said. “I always looked at football as the thing that could keep me out of everything. I was getting ready for my junior season at Monrovia and I got kicked out. That fast.”
Ramirez had tipped his hand as a sophomore as to what type of talent he possessed by rushing for 851 yards and 10 touchdowns. But as the close of that school year approached and offseason preparations for what promised to be a banner junior season beckoned, it all came crashing down.
What exactly Ramirez did isn’t as important anymore as how he dealt with it and took the steps needed to return just in time to salvage his athletic career both at Monrovia and in the future.
“You can let your mind slip up for a split second and anything can get taken away,” Ramirez said. “The biggest thing this all taught me is how fast you can get something you love taken away from you.”
But unlike so many others who screw up at Ramirez’s age, he wasn’t about to let a big mistake derail his football dreams. He was determined to do what it took to be back in uniform for his senior season, whether it was at Monrovia or somewhere else.
As preparations began for a new season last spring/summer, Ramirez often watched his former teammates get ready to defend the CIF title he never got a chance to help them win. Almost a senior, Ramirez did everything asked of him as a student at Canyon Oaks, an alternative high school in the Monrovia district, to earn a chance to return to the team.
And as the summer passing circuit approached, he needed to get clearance from Monrovia principal Darvin Jackson and coach Ryan Maddox. With time running out, Ramirez began practicing at neighboring Arcadia as part of a back-up plan nobody could blame him for seeking out.
“He had to get himself back on track,” Maddox said. “He would have had a senior year, we just didn’t know if that senior year was going to be at Monrovia. He had gotten himself eligible. He could have gone somewhere else to play. He started the summer at Arcadia because things were unsure over at Monrovia.
“We knew De’Shawn, we liked De’Shawn and we wanted to see him succeed. We felt the best thing for De’Shawn was staying at our place. I’m not speaking from a football aspect, but as a young man. I have always believed that when kids screw up, they deserve that second chance.”
Ramirez was given that second chance by Jackson and he didn’t disappoint. Used sometimes as a receiver and other times as a running back, Ramirez rushed for 491 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also caught 32 balls for 562 yards and nine scores. He even threw two touchdown passes.
On defense, Ramirez shined some more. He recorded 33 tackles, had three interceptions and recovered two fumbles. But most importantly, Ramirez got the CIF championship ring that he didn’t get a chance to win as a junior when Monrovia beat San Gabriel in the Mid-Valley championship last December.
“It was really an exciting year all around,” Ramirez said. “There was a good chance I wasn’t going to be able to play this year. For me to play, win a CIF ring and now make it to the all-star game is really an achievement.”
Ramirez isn’t the first teenager to make a mistake and put his athletic career in peril, and he surely won’t be the last. His hope now is that future generations learn from his example and don’t repeat the same mistakes. And to them, he offers this warning.
“Any kids who break the law or are knuckleheads, I would just let them know to take nothing for granted,” Ramirez said. “If you’re a good player and you think you are going to do this or that and get away with it just because everybody knows you and you’re the star football player or basketball player, it doesn’t work like that. You can only do so much with your talents. Don’t take anything for granted.”
Ramirez won’t be taking anything for granted on Friday night. The game is just another chance for him to showcase his talents and make up for lost time. If a college coach or scout sees him and wants to talk, he’s open to it. In the meantime, he’s planning on continuing his football career at College of the Canyons this fall.
But before that he hopes to put on one last show for the local fans and get the West back some respect against the East. And don’t put it past him as Ramirez has already shown he’s very resilient when the chips are down.
“I’ve got a good feeling about this game,” Ramirez said. “I’ve watched this game for a long time growing up, so it’s really cool finally to play in it. Last year was a really close game, but the West slipped up a little bit. I think we’re going to come home with it this year.”
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