SANGER, Calif. (KFSN) -- John Pena calls football his first love. In fact, he grew up around the game - first as a ball boy and later as a quarterback at Sanger High - playing for his dad and head coach, Jorge Pena.
While football has always been a huge part of his life, John decided way before high school that his future would be shaped by his performance in the classroom rather than his athletic prowess.
"Both my parents are teachers, so the standards for academics have always been high," he said. "It's always been school first and everything else comes later."
His family describes John as a self-starter.
In high school, he lettered in three sports, serves as the ASB president, holds a 4.52 GPA and just received his acceptance letter into Harvard.
"What really opened my mind to the East Coast and Ivy League schools, and specifically Harvard, was a trip I took in 8th grade with another family," he said. "I was fortunate to visit Harvard's campus and I felt at home. It sounds cliché but I felt at home over there."
Getting into any college is a numbers game but the pandemic made it even more difficult for applicants to get accepted into elite schools.
Making the process a bit more challenging was the fact that California had paused standardized testing.
That's when John's mom decided to drive him to Arizona just to take the SAT.
"She was going to do everything and I was going to agree to anything if it meant he was going to have every opportunity to have his dream come true," Jorge said. "So if that meant we got to go to Arizona to take a test, then that's what we're going to do."
That decision paid off -- John aced the test - scoring in the 99th percentile.
His parents say he gives 100% effort in everything he's ever tried
"He's made it look easy, to be honest with you," Jorge said. "He's very disciplined and goal-oriented, so to see him do all these things, it's just how we know John to be."
While John is looking forward to the challenge that comes along with attending an Ivy League school, he hasn't completely shut the door on his football career.
The political science major says he plans to try out for the Harvard football team once he arrives on campus.
"From what I've heard, the walk-on process is very open, very inviting, so I'm going to take my shot and see what I can do and hopefully football is still apart of my future," he said.
Whatever he chooses to do, the future is bright.
Good Sports: Sanger High School quarterback headed to Harvard University
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