It never hurts to ask, especially when you're dealing with USC senior defensive back Jason Sehorn. Consider what a few modest requests have produced in the past:
Hey, Jason, why don't you play baseball with us this summer? After graduating from Mount Shasta (Calif.) High in 1988, Sehorn agrees to play centerfield on an American Legion team and give up his summer job clearing rocks from a garden. Although he hasn't played baseball since Little League and isn't all that crazy about the sport to begin with, Sehorn bats over .400 and at the end of the summer signs a $40,000 contract with the Chicago Cubs.
Jason, we know you've only played one year of high school football and that you're kind of busy with the Cubs, but could you possibly squeeze in some football for us? In the fall of 1990, after two seasons in the minors, Sehorn, then a student at Shasta Community College in Redding, Calif., succumbs to football coach Sonny Stupek's pleas to play football for Shasta. He does this because he prefers running around the gridiron to standing around in the outfield for the Huntington (W.Va.) Cubs, where there aren't even any rocks to pick up. Playing wide receiver, Sehorn becomes a two-time All-America, setting school season records for yards per catch and touchdowns.
Say, Jason, since you aren't doing anything this spring, why don't you come out for track? The Cubs release Sehorn in the spring of 1991 when they discover he has been playing football. A few days later the Shasta track coach lures Sehorn to the jumping pits. After four weeks of practice he sets a new school record in the triple jump with a leap of 48'1".
Jason, we know you hold the national junior college season record with an average of 267 all-purpose yards per game, but how would you feel about playing defense? Soon after Sehorn arrives at receiver-rich USC in the fall of '92, coach Larry Smith asks him to move to the relatively unpopulated secondary. Four weeks after his first lessons in tackling and backpedaling, Sehorn becomes the starting free safety. At season's end he shares the team lead in interceptions (three) and fumble recoveries (two) and is second in tackles (80).
Oh, Jason, would you mind putting a lid on your slam dunking by, say, July 1? That way, if, god forbid, you get hurt, you might heal before the football season. Never mind Sehorn's speed (4.47 in the 40), size (6'3" and 220 pounds) and soft hands. His most formidable, and favorite, skill may be his jamming. Still, he agrees to take a hiatus from it beginning on July 1.
Sehorn, after all, is now serious about football. "Defense is the hardest thing in the world," he says. "If you drop the ball as a receiver, you still have two more plays. When a defensive back makes a mistake, that's seven points on the board. The worst part is I have to run backward as fast as my opponent is running forward—and he knows where he's going."
Sehorn has finally found something in sports he needs to work at. He is on an ambitious weight-training regimen (though not so ambitious that it has kept him from his two favorite pastimes: sitting and buying shoes). But for most of the summer he was spared entreaties from the Trojan football staff wondering how he was progressing. Last spring when the coaches asked the players for summer addresses and phone numbers, Sehorn gave them his address in Los Angeles and the phone number of his mother, Nancie Hughes, in Mount Shasta, 650 miles north of L.A. "I don't like hearing the phone ring," he says.
In other words, please make all future requests in person or in writing.