The simple life appealing for Ricky Thenarse

The rolling plains and cornfields of Nebraska have a certain appeal. The word "majestic" probably wouldn't apply, but there's a serenity to be found in a state where life is simple, a person's worth often defined on their work ethic. For Ricky Thenarse, the simplicity and single-mindedness of those within the Cornhusker state is more than appealing. Considering his life growing up, the simpler life is, the more it appeals to him.

I get up, grab a bagel, maybe a cup of coffee, head outside to pick up the paper and think about what's on the agenda for that day.

It's simple, but in rural areas like Nebraska, simple is often what you see. Some on the coasts would call it too simple, boring in fact, because from their culture to Lincoln, it's like going from a Lamborghini to a Honda Accord……..four door.

There are some, though, that in their world, getting up and heading out that front door isn't simple at all. In fact, it's another day, where you can't be sure if you are going to come home or not.

"There's always someone getting shot around here or shootings going on," Los Angeles, California resident and David Starr Jordan high school standout Ricky Thenarse said. "You don't know what's going to happen after you leave your front door."

Deep in the heart of south central Los Angeles, that's nothing new to anyone, those who have seen this particular part of America described in movies and in the news as a war zone in the middle of so-called "modern" society.

It's a place where if you have grown up there your entire life, it isn't a matter of if you have lost friends and even family, but who they were and when.

Amongst the seven people that Ricky has known that he said have been shot and killed in his neighborhood over his life, he's seen two of the tragedies take place in person. One, a friend, but the other much more than that; a cousin, but also a mentor.

"He always used to say that football was my way out," Ricky said of his cousin. "He said that I should get my grades, do as well as I can and get out of here so I can have a future."

"And we were walking along one day and just like that, he got shot in a drive-by and he died right there."

Sadness, shock, fear; all are emotions that you and I can only fathom as to what would go through our mind, seeing one of our loved ones gunned down in front of our eyes. They were for Ricky as well, but what his cousin taught him kept him from going down the route that most that live there, often go.

"You get angry, because you want to do something about it," he said. "You want to stop it or get whoever back that did it to you or someone close to you."

"But I knew that if I did, I wouldn't have a future anymore. I wouldn't have a shot to play football, go to college or make it to the NFL."

"I'd be just like them and I'm not going to do that. I want something better than that for myself."

That's a battle all its own, the pressure to join the gangs an anvil weighing heavily on those teenagers in the neighborhood, others promising them protection, but then throwing them into a world where there is none.

There is only crime, violence and death.

For so many reasons, far too many that you and I probably couldn't understand, Thenarse wants something different.

He wants out.

Away, far away, living his dream instead of experiencing a daily nightmare. His family wants him out, if only to have the opportunity to live instead of wondering every single day if he'll die.

That's why when you talk about recruiting, Thenarse looks at those written offers, four as of today, as much as opportunities at a different life as they are a chance to compete for a starting spot on a team.

When Ricky realized that he wasn't just good at the game of football, but so good that an opportunity like this could come about, he knew where all his focus was going to be.

"People told me that football was my ticket out of here, but you don't think about that really until someone actually comes to you and says they want you to play for them and there's a scholarship to do it," Ricky said. "When that happens, it starts to be a little more real and there's nothing I want more than this."

Sports is a way out for many kids that grow up in the gang-dominated inner cities of America. Whether it's basketball, football or whatever, it's their one opportunity to get out. To make a life of their own, but help those who remain there and to realize that there is a world outside of theirs, where life isn't in question once you leave your front door.

It's safe and that's a concept that Thenarse would like to learn really means.

"I don't know what it would be like not to be here and have to worry about possibly getting killed," he said. "Before you leave the house, you pray that God will bring you back at the end of the day."

"God gave me the ability to play football and I know it's to leave here if I can, so I have to, because this is the only future I have."

That future has been built on Ricky's impressive athleticism, carrying quickness (Ricky ran a 4.48/40 at the USC Nike combine) and speed on a 6 foot, 1 inch frame, weighing right around 180 pounds. He's got the versatility to play either side, Ricky rushing for over 1,200 yards on offense last year, while grabbing four interceptions from the safety position as well.

The University of Nebraska was the first to offer Thenarse and it was a school that as a product of the inner-cities, he had little to no familiarity with at all. Perhaps he didn't even know where Nebraska was, but since the offer, he's gotten to know a lot more.

"I love that place, because it's everything I want right now," Ricky said. "It's far away from here, but I have heard that, that place is about nothing but football."

"I've made football my life, because I know it's my only way out, so when I hear about a place where the whole state is just all about that football team, that sounds like a place I want to be."

Ricky is set to visit Nebraska on the 11th of September, the Huskers hosting Wake Forest University. That visit is currently the only one he has set up to this point.

That visit is still around a month and a half away, but he's been thinking about it since it was officially scheduled. "I can't wait, because the coaches there seem like they want me more than anyone else does," he said. "They have recruited me the hardest, but like I said, that whole state seems like it's about just one thing."

"I love that and I love that it's at a place where there's not much else going on. To me, that is exactly what I want."

There are other choices, of course, Thenarse also looking at Oregon, Washington and Colorado, all three having offered him in writing. And, of course, there's the obligatory choice of USC, a school that is just a stone's throw from him.

That actually doesn't favor USC, though, whereas it favors everyone else, because unlike most recruits that look at schools and hope it feels like home, Ricky is looking for a place that feels like anything but.

That eliminates a lot of questions I usually ask as a reporter of sorts. I don't ask Ricky if he cares about location. I don't ask Ricky if he cares about the weather. I don't ask him all the things I usually ask when player lives in a state that has some dominate programs of their own.

Ricky doesn't care about that. He doesn't care about it being close or there being rain, heat, snow or the distance it is away from his house. He cares about his future and going to a place where he'll actually have one.

Will that be Nebraska? Only time will tell, especially the time he spends on his official at the land of the big red.

There's little doubt, though, that the simple-life, the one that some kids find almost too peaceful, that's a place that will always rank real high to him.

"I don't care about what they have going on or what kind of life there is outside of the school," Ricky said. "My life is getting up, getting to school as fast as I can, practicing after school and then going home."

"My way out of here is football, so I don't care about the other stuff."

"I am just doing everything I can to get out."

Ricky currently has a reported 3.0 GPA and is scheduled to retake his SAT

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