- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAS VEGAS -- For a player who was used to almost always being the best player on the field, Su'a Cravens' first day at Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta did not go so well.
He was coming off a great season as a freshman at Temecula Valley and was a bit cocky he admits when he got to his new school.
"Coming from TV I kind of had a big head since I started as a freshman," Cravens said in between games at the New Level Athletics Elite 7-on-7. "I came over there and my first practice I got yelled at. Everyone was running and I was walking over to get water. ... I got yelled at a couple more times that week about how I looked nonchalant, and I have to say I was a little nonchalant.
"The coaches taught me how to work hard. They run practice like a college practice. They really changed my work ethic. I'm in there trying my hardest every day. I work out every day of the week."
With his natural ability on the field coupled with his newfound determination and work ethic, Cravens has developed into one of the best players in the country. The ESPNU Watch List member has around 40 offers, many of which are from the country's elite programs.
Chris Clairborne immediately recognized how special Cravens was the first time he saw him play during a scrimmage. Clairborne, a former All-American and NFL first-round pick, only had one word to describe the 6-foot-1, 205-pound junior.
"A baller," said Clairborne, who coaches Cravens' 7-on-7 team. "He thinks ahead of each play. When the play is going on you can already see him think about the next move, and he always goes up and gets the ball. That's a big thing you see at the next level. A lot of guys are fast, but when you have a knack to make plays, that's what makes you special."
When Cravens gets to college, he will likely be moved to weakside linebacker, which is where Clairborne sees Cravens at even though Cravens plays safety for his 7-on-7 team as well as at Vista Murrieta.
Cravens is not concerned with which position he plays in college, but he does prefer defense over offense. He's spent time at each level on the defensive side of the ball beginning his career as a nose tackle. Just like linebacker and safety, Cravens was dominant along the defensive line, too. As a 7-year-old playing in the 10- and 11-year-old Pop Warner league, Cravens led his team in sacks.
He will tell you that he sees himself as a football player instead of a lineman or linebacker or safety, and football has been his love since before he really understood what football really was.
"I've wanted to be in the NFL since I was 1-year old," Cravens said. "My dad has home videos of me on his chest watching a Steelers game or just watching NFL games all Sunday."
As he continued to grow, Cravens watched members of his family do exactly what he was dreaming about. Cravens' cousin, Jordan Cameron, plays for the Cleveland Browns and another cousin, Colby Cameron, is a quarterback at Louisiana Tech. His brother Siaki plays football and his sister Malia plays basketball at Hawaii.
Cravens said it is nice to be able to lean on his brother and cousin Jordan to help him with the recruiting process. Both remind him to treat it like a business because "to them you're just a piece of meat."
He said, however, it doesn't come without its pressures either.
"It's a lot of pressure because you don't want to be the bust of the family," he said with a laugh. "It's fun but at the same time it comes with a lot of responsibility."
A responsibility you can be certain he does not take nonchalantly.