The Ties That Bind
Daylon McCutcheon was nine years old when he asked his mother, Deborah Sterling, if he could play organized football. "I told him no, and he didn't play that year," says Sterling. "I was afraid of the comparison."
Daylon, you see, is the son of Lawrence McCutcheon, the former Los Angeles Ram running back. These days, as the leading rusher on USA Today's top-ranked schoolboy team, La Puente ( Calif.) Bishop Amat, Daylon cannot escape comparison with his father. Last Friday night, in a 28-6 victory over Crespi High, Daylon rushed for 189 yards and scored all four of the Lancers' touchdowns. For the season he has gained 1,575 yards on 150 carries and scored 22 touchdowns for 9-0 Bishop Amat.
"I've never seen a kid with better lateral movement," says Lancer coach Tom Salter. While Lawrence was more powerful, Salter says that "Daylon's a slasher with a lot of moves and speed."
"He's pretty exciting when the ball is in his hands," says McCutcheon the elder, now a Ram scout, who has watched Daylon play five times in the last two seasons. "But I can't take any credit. I didn't have a lot of contact with him."
Deborah and Lawrence met while they were students at Colorado State in the early '70s. McCutcheon was drafted by the Rams in 1972, and Sterling moved to Los Angeles after graduating in '74. Daylon was born on Dec. 9, 1976, but Lawrence was never anything more to him than his biological father, though he has paid child support since Daylon was born.
From the time he was about 2� until he was 16, Daylon saw his father only once. That was in 1986, when Deborah took 10-year-old Daylon to a Ram practice. "We were running around, having players autograph our pennants," says Daylon. "This man asked me if I wanted him to sign mine. I said O.K."
After practice, the three of them talked for a few minutes. " Lawrence spoke to me the whole time," says Deborah, "but he never took his eyes off Daylon."
Though Daylon and Deborah lived near Lawrence while Daylon was growing up, it wasn't until 1992 that Lawrence called Daylon to meet with him again. "Both of us are kind of stubborn," says Daylon. "My attitude was, If he wants to talk to me, let him come to me." The two had dinner, and the conversation was "awkward," says Daylon. "But today we're pretty good friends."
So are Deborah and Lawrence. The two sometimes sit together at Bishop Amat games, along with Myna, Lawrence's wife of 12 years, and their 10-year-old son, Marcus. Does Sterling, a substitute teacher, think that Daylon has suffered because he didn't come to know his father until recently? "If you know Daylon, you know that he's always been surrounded with so much love that it wasn't Daylon's loss."