That’s a growing list of athletes in action. Sports and class. They go together like tomatoes and lettuce on a salad.

Beaumont High must be reveling in posting that burgeoning list of student athletes bursting into the college ranks.

No. They’re not playing at baseball-legend USC or softball factory UCLA. No one landed at football-rich Oklahoma or legendary swimming powerhouse Cal-Berkeley.

There’s University of Dallas and Kansas Wesleyan. Places like Ottawa (Kansas), Salem (West Virginia), plus stops in Louisiana, Illinois, Maryland and Montana, plus Iowa and North Carolina, plus South Dakota and Hawaii. Some of those colleges are schools that never make the scoreboard list on ESPN College Game Day in the fall.

Locally, it’s Cal Baptist-Riverside, University of Redlands, Cal State San Bernardino and UC Riverside. There’s been La Verne and Hope International out in Orange County.

It’s that time of year when college graduations have just taken place around Southern California, the entire Golden State, not to mention the entire nation. There’s something like 5,300 4-year colleges in the U.S. There’s no reason why kids from this area can’t be graduating from one of those places.

If you’re an athlete, you only increase your chances.

Pell grants, academic scholarships, merit awards, plus other financial options, are available for anyone who desires to get a college education.

So why are we talking education in a sports section?

Most readers turn to this section for updates on scores, columns, think pieces and, perhaps, features on interesting athletically-connected people from the area. Education? That’s for another section, right?

Here’s the reasoning: Athletics doesn’t happen unless the Academics are in place. Right?

Martin Dusold, Beaumont’s athletic director, is trying. Every couple of years, or so, he’ll bring in athletic scholarship guru Jack Renkins as a guest speaker. The lecture is simple: College scholarships. There’s a way.

Area athletes may not be on their way to USC or Notre Dame, but there are a few that have turned up at UC Riverside and Idaho State. Or some of those out-of-the-way NAIA schools in the Midwest.

There’s an art to that, folks.

There’s Derreck Affor, a fairly-gifted hoopster who happened to believe that track & field was his stronger sport. The onetime Beaumont hurdler, sprinter and high jumper took on the decathlon at nearby San Bernardino Valley College this past spring.

Combined with his academic workload, the decathlon bit played to the attention of college coaches elsewhere. A few offers started coming in.

Affor chuckled. It was class, practice, homework and competition.

“If you want it,” he says quietly, “it’s there.”

At last check, he’d heard from La Verne and Long Beach, UC Riverside and track-rich Azusa Pacific. None were bad landing spots.

Told me last week, he’s got a partial to Long Beach.

All that commitment better start early, even before reaching high school.

Athletics and academics. There’s way, way, way too many people participating in sports that aren’t matching that same effort in the classroom. There are some that believe that hitting the books in class makes a better athlete.

Athletes sit home while lesser-gifted teammates move onto college via the scholarship route. The difference is simple: They went out and landed it.

One kid — can’t name him, too embarrassing — wanted to play college baseball. Grades seemed decent enough. Could’ve played somewhere. Wouldn’t get on the internet. Wouldn’t fill out the questionnaires. Wouldn’t apply for his NAIA or NCAA number.

I still remember the quote, “I just wanna play ball!”

While some of his classmates — swimming, softball, football, track, water polo and soccer — got collegiate awards, he sat home. Tried to make the team at an area junior college. Sat the bench. Got lost. Quit the team. Quit school.

Saw his family at the store. Shrugs. Stares. No answers.

It’s not over, says Dad. “We’ll get him there.”

His Mom, who swore me to secrecy, pulled me off to the side. “There’s no way.”

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