Since first laying his hands on a pigskin at age 7, Charles McCall has been mad about football. A senior and star running back at Los Osos High in Rancho Cucamonga, California, he puts in 30 hours a week playing, practicing, and working out at the gym. "Playing pro -- that's definitely my goal," he says. Last June, while attending football camp in Idaho, the 17-year-old collided with another player in midair as he went out for a pass. Charles came down -- hard -- on his right leg. "It felt wobbly, like it was asleep, and I had to limp off the field," he says. Within minutes he was in excruciating pain. X-rays revealed a badly ripped ligament behind the knee.
But Charles refused to be sidelined. He put in hours of physical therapy daily and doubled his weight training routine in order to strengthen the muscles around his knee. By the opening of his high school's August football practice -- a.k.a. Hell Week -- he was back in the game, with his doctor's permission, his leg steadied by a brace. "I knew I was putting myself at risk," says Charles, who went on to lead his team in receptions and receiving yards for the season. "But I live, eat, and breathe this sport. If I didn't play, what would I do?"