Syd Quan Thompson keeps his cellphone handy, just in case. He’s a cornerback for hire. But the former Grant High School and Cal star awaits a call that may not materialize, a victim of a tendon operation that is often the kiss of death for athletes who rely on backpedaling, quick stops and starts. Thompson pointed to his right foot and sighed. A sock conceals the scar from reconstructive surgery in 2011, when a ruptured Achilles’ derailed his NFL dreams.

Losing was once a foreign word for Marcus Arroyo. He quarterbacked Colfax High School to football championships in the mid-1990s and played at San Jose State, setting records that still stand. He then got into coaching. Lately, bad teams and losing seasons have been the unwanted theme for Arroyo, from one coast to the other.

Dan Bunz played eight NFL seasons. He gave his mind, body and soul to the game, enduring shoulder, back and knee injuries that still make him wince just crawling out of bed. He suffered more concussions than he has fingers. He frets over memory loss and the toll it might take on his family.

Aaron Garcia was ready for a homecoming to Del Paso Heights, where he would teach and coach at his alma mater, Grant High School. He looked forward to watching his three children grow, including Gigi, a 6-foot-2 basketball forward at McClatchy, where she generates considerable recruiting interest. But football keeps seeping into Garcia’s life, and it’s hard to say no.

Lance Briggs chases quarterbacks for hobby and pay. It’s a painful way to make a living, absorbing blows to the ribs from 300-plus-pound men blocking his path, and Briggs has the bruises as proof over 12 seasons as a linebacker for the Chicago Bears.

Jon Osterhout’s lumberjack-like facial growth looked more promising than the still-recovering field at American River College. Osterhout, the Beavers’ first-year coach, ran his hands across his beard late Saturday night after a successful debut despite early signs of chaos and confusion on a field he helps manicure and nuture.

Steven Moore wants to be a police officer when he grows up, when fun and games take a back seat to real life. But the Elk Grove High School graduate isn’t in a hurry to stop playing football.

Derick Milgrim is the sudden face of the Cosumnes Oaks Wolfpack. He has taken over a program nearly rocked to its foundation when college buddy Ryan Gomes was not retained after summer workouts.

If there’s one player who might keep Michael Sam from making the St. Louis Rams’ roster, it’s Ethan Westbrooks.

The CIF announced Monday the top team in Northern California and the best from Southern California will receive automatic bids to the CIF State Open Division championship game in Carson without having to play in regional title games. This is especially welcomed news in the Sac-Joaquin Section and for programs such as The Bee’s top-ranked Folsom, suddenly with an extra bounce in its step.

The River City High School graduate and veteran San Diego Chargers wide receiver Malcom Floyd was crushed on an over-the-middle pass at Philadelphia in Week 2 last season. Floyd’s head was driven back into his shoulder pads by the Eagles’ DeMeco Ryans. Floyd crumpled to the turf. While trainers attended to him, teammates surrounded him.

Puka Lopa ambled down a hallway at Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon wearing shorts, T-shirt and sandals. His shock of hair, confined to a ponytail, didn’t move. When Lopa is rushing passers, his familiar look is to have the long locks snake out of the back of his helmet, guiding him like a rudder.

Devontae Booker’s punishing running style and elusiveness have his Utah Utes teammates comparing him to the Seattle Seahawks’ bruising running back, thus the moniker: “Baby Marshawn Lynch.”

When it comes to speed, Terrance Mitchell tops out somewhere between frenetic and faster. The Dallas Cowboys rookie cornerback by way of Oregon and Burbank High School has been impressive in his first training camp, determined to make the final 53-man roster.

He can race past complex cover schemes and jump over defenders. He can do chin-ups on the crossbar with a running start.

Bill Baxter walked into the El Camino High School gym Sunday afternoon and froze. He expected a modest gathering to celebrate the refurbished old gym where he coached the girls basketball team en route to the Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame. Instead, he stood in the eye of an emotional hurricane.

Lucas Still can imagine a more rigorous summer. He could be working: digging ditches, laying pipe, yanking off shingles in the oppressive heat. Instead, the recent Christian Brothers High School graduate and Bee All-Metro baseball selection has worked on his craft, soaking in the sun and hundreds of innings playing with the Sacramento Legends Baseball Club.

Four years ago, they led their high school teams to regional prominence as big-time players with a penchant for big-time plays. Now, Shaq Thompson, the former Grant star, and Jordan Richards of Folsom are headliner talents in the Pacific-12 Conference at Washington and Stanford, respectively. And at this time next year, they very well could be on NFL rosters as first-round draft selections.

Xavier Thames didn’t care where he was picked in Thursday’s NBA draft – he just wanted to be picked.

Once the fastest man alive, Jim Hines is now 67, looking fit and always eager to discuss track and field. He holds a special place in sprinting lore, be it for his record exploits in Sacramento on the hard-clay track at Hughes Stadium in 1968 on the famed “Night of Speed,” when he was the first to crack the 10-second barrier in the 100-meter dash; or his sizzling effort later that summer at the Olympic Games in Mexico City, where Hines won the 100 in 9.95 seconds, a world record he held for 15 years.

Stacy Dragila was so new to pole vaulting that her first post-college meets featured frayed nerves and even a bit of a fashion crisis. She wore mismatching outfits – Nike shoes with an adidas warmup – she wasn’t sponsored, and she had no idea if she would succeed. In time, she certainly did, pioneering a new era for women’s athletics with her ability to jet down the runway, stick a pole into the pit and soar to new heights.

EUGENE, Ore. – Mike Duncan is subtle yet swift in putting ideas into action.

EUGENE, Ore. Diondre Batson paced like an anxious cat, wanting to pounce on the prize though he was unable to.

Bernie Church offers a cautionary tale. The retired McClatchy High School baseball coach said the recognition that comes with being a first-round pick in the major-league draft can catapult players to new heights or serve as an overwhelming burden.

Curtis Rogers still replays it in his mind, a groundhog moment that never grows old. Johnson High School pulling away from Southern California track powers in the 4x100-meter relay in the 1986 CIF State Track and Field Championships in Norwalk. Rogers, the second leg on that relay team, was one of the most accomplished track performers in Sac-Joaquin Section history.

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