Hunter Royal is the prototype for the ideal high school athlete.
He's smart, physically gifted, a relentless worker and a natural leader.
Royal has been a captain in football and basketball all four years at Inderkum High School.
He led the Tigers to 20 wins over the past two seasons as the team's starting quarterback. He's helped keep Inderkum's basketball team competitive as an undersize and tenacious 6-foot-1, 185-pound power forward.
"He's always been a coach's favorite because of his work ethic and leadership," says Inderkum football coach Terry Stark. "We won a lot of close games the last two years, and I think a lot of that had to do with Hunter."
Stark still marvels at Royal's efforts in a second-round 45-14 playoff loss to Folsom last fall.
Despite suffering an ankle injury on his team's second offensive series, Royal continued to lead his team, even when it was apparent Inderkum had no chance of winning.
"That speaks to his character," Stark said.
It also speaks to Royal's resolve.
The senior's drive in athletics has been steeled by his daily battle with diabetes, a disease that afflicts nearly 26 million Americans.
Since being diagnosed with diabetes at age 8, Royal has had to vigilantly monitor his diet while taking daily insulin injections.
"I feel fortunate it was diagnosed when I was so young," Royal said. "Some people don't find out until they're in their 20s, sometimes when damage is already done."
Diabetics have increased danger of heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, blindness and lower-limb amputation.
Royal has type 1 diabetes sometimes known as juvenile diabetes because it is more commonly diagnosed in childhood. It's an autoimmune disease that destroys the body's insulin-making cells.
It differs from the more common type 2 diabetes that often is brought on by obesity or physical inactivity, breaking down the body's ability to process the insulin it naturally makes.
Royal's parents, Trish Johnson-Royal and Sterling Royal, knew something was wrong when Hunter would mow through four helpings of spaghetti at dinner and still be hungry.
"He was 8 years old and out-eating my husband and me, and yet his tummy was still perfectly flat," Johnson-Royal said.
After Sterling Royal saw a television commercial for diabetes and realized the similarities with Hunter's symptoms, they rushed him to the doctor.
It led to a brief hospital stay and a more challenging way of living for Hunter and his family.
"It was a crazy time," Johnson-Royal recalls. "It was right around 9/11 and his little brother (Tabias) was only 3 weeks old. It definitely was life-changing."
But a couple of things the family agreed wouldn't change.
Sports and accountability would still be a big part of Hunter's life. There would be no shame, no hiding his condition from his peers.
"My husband and I wanted Hunter to never use diabetes as an excuse," Johnson-Royal said. "I think it's what helped make Hunter strong and helped shape him into the person he is."
For three years, from ages 11 to 14, Royal attended an Oregon youth basketball camp for diabetics put on by former NBA player Chris Dudley, a type 1 diabetic. Royal also closely followed the exploits of diabetic pro athletes Adam Morrison and Jay Cutler.
"I think sports have been huge in helping me manage my diabetes," Royal said. "It keeps me aware of my body and reinforces the importance of eating right."
Royal also has mentored diabetic children and their families through a Kaiser Permanente program.
"I know that some parents have worries about their children playing sports because they're diabetic," he said. "I love helping out anyway I can, showing them through what I've been able to do that you can play sports and manage the disease."
With graduation approaching, Royal hopes to fulfill his dream of being a college quarterback after a below-the-radar career at Inderkum, which runs the wing-T.
He's working with former Cal and St. Louis Rams quarterback Dave Barr in preparing to attend City College of San Francisco, last fall's national community college champion.
Royal hopes to follow in the footsteps of former Nevada Union quarterbacks Steele and Broughan Jantz, brothers who went from running the Miners' wing-T to CCSF's pass-dominated spread offense. Steele Jantz is now at Iowa State.
"Ultimately, I'd like to play at a Division I school," said Royal, who is interested in law and economics.
While Stark says Royal is athletic enough to play another position, possibly strong safety, he has no plans to switch.
"I've been playing quarterback all my life," Royal said. "I love being the general on the field. You have to be strong-willed, strong-minded. So that position suits me best."