It sounds so simple: Behave and make a good-faith effort and rewards come your way.
But once a guy leaves his house and goes to school, especially when his neighborhood and institution are populated by too many knuckleheads not to notice, how can one truly rest assured that focus will be maintained?
"Actually, it's not that hard," Shanon Wilson said.
Wilson, a 5-9, 165-pound senior, will proudly represent John Bartram High and the Public League as a wideout/kicker on May 19 at Northeast High in the 33rd annual Daily News-Eagles City All-Star Football Game (7 p.m.).
Wilson also played varsity basketball. He does well in his classes; he works one period each day (and even gets paid!) in the school's main office; he recently received a special award for his total Bartram involvement; and he's headed for Millersville with designs on becoming a social worker.
Credit? That goes mostly to his faith and family.
Wilson is a Jehovah's Witness. He participates in Bible discussion groups thrice per week and never neglects to praise his parents, Julius and Annie, when someone asks how he has turned out so well.
"The Bible says if you honor your mother and father, your days will be long," Wilson said. "I always think of that.
"If I see guys cutting class, I say something to them. I know they're not always going to listen, but . . . There are times when I'm sitting in class and things are pretty boring. I think, 'I wish I could just walk out of here.' But I always think long-term. Messing around now is not going to help me for later."
It sounds so simple . . .
As recently as 2 years ago, Wilson was still playing soccer because his dad was concerned that a lack of size would get him crunched on a football field.
Shanon - called "Poo" by his family and "Shay" by his teammates - finally got the OK to play and was quite the productive receiver by last fall.
The Maroon Wave was highly run-oriented due to the presence of senior John "Fudgie" Pratt and junior Michael Alexander. Wilson had to settle for 14 catches. The result? Nine touchdowns and 402 yards (28.7 average).
"I'm pretty shy," Wilson said. "I don't play football for the glory and I'm not the type to brag about my accomplishments.
"I just kept trying to get better. When people questioned my chances because of my size, I didn't pay attention. I hoped football would give me a better chance to get to college. The Millersville people wanted me, so things are looking good."
Wilson said he attended last year's all-star game and told himself, "Next year, that'll be me."
He laughed. "Can't say I was sure it would happen, though.
"When my coach [Damond "Smash" Warren] told me maybe 6 weeks ago that I'd been picked, I was so happy. I started lifting and training and running harder than ever. I can't wait."
He's even going to get his kicks. Literally.
No specific kicker was selected for the squad, so Wilson will perform those duties. Bartram almost always went for two-point conversions, thus limiting Wilson to two PATs.
"I went up to the coach [Simon Gratz' Erik Zipay] and asked him if he needed a kicker," Shanon said. "I wasn't sure if we had a good one. He asked me, 'Can you do it?' I told him 'yes' and he gave me the job right there on the spot.
"In elementary school, I was always good in soccer and kickball. As a third-grader, I was kicking like a fifth-grader."
Wilson, who lives near 56th and Whitby and is one of four children (Michael is older; Julius and Mina are younger), said he wants to become a youth social worker because he has always been a people person and giver.
"Sometimes," he acknowledged, "I put others' needs ahead of my own. I have to watch that.
"But I always like seeing kids happy. When they come to visit our house, I show an interest and try to make sure they're happy, whether it's just talking or playing games. Any way to help."
And he does mean "any."
With a smile he added, "When girls come over, and if this is what they want, I'll even do their nails." *