Christian Rossi distinguished himself at a young age.
"At 9 months, he wasn't walking, he was running," says his father, Rick Rossi. "And, at 18 months, he could swing a golf club like we wish we could."
His son would be the kid who threw the winning touchdown pass in football, make the go-ahead goal in soccer, sink the bucket with the game on the line in basketball and drive in the big run in baseball.
"He's always been very gifted," dad says of the Clovis North High senior quarterback, who will lead the Broncos into today's 7 p.m. Central Section Division I championship against Central at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Yet, for all of their son's success, Rick and Lisa Rossi still felt the need to make an extreme call that they admit was against their son's wishes and challenged his self-esteem: They had him repeat sixth grade, change schools and then return to his original district in seventh.
"He lacked maturity and confidence and, at the time, he was struggling in school," Rick Rossi says. "It wasn't an athletic-motivated decision, even though a lot of people think we did it for that reason."
The benefits have been obvious for Clovis North's football team in an 11-1 season that includes a 50-7 throttling of Central in a Tri-River Athletic Conference game Oct. 18.
A long and controversial practice in the Central Section, holding back students for athletic reasons has been particularly prevalent in the sports powerhouse Clovis Unified School District, creating the perception of youth "redshirting" for the benefit of increased physical development in athletics.
While Rossi, who has an August birthday, will graduate at 18 years old -- a common age -- many holdbacks have finished high school at 19, some close to 20.
Clovis Unified, finding the practice abusive, implemented a policy several years ago that more closely analyzes the need to retain students and, in some cases, denies requests.
The Rossis, however, used a loophole: change districts for one year.
Their son, thus, attended Copper Hills of the Clovis North district as a sixth-grader and repeated the grade at private Fresno Christian before returning to the Clovis North attendance area by attending Granite Ridge in seventh.
Clovis Unified still penalized the move by prohibiting Rossi from playing varsity sports as a seventh-grader.
He then returned to the athletic mainstream in eighth grade, re-establishing himself in a career that today has him regarded by many as both the section's best quarterback in football and top shortstop in baseball.
He figures to receive a scholarship in one or the other -- or both -- or play professional baseball.
"Yes, my life's pretty good right now," he says.
But he wasn't saying that six years ago.
"At the time, I didn't think it was the right thing for me," he says of being held back.
Dad says: "We had a lot of arguments; we had a lot of tears. I know it was difficult on Christian."
The family looks back favorably today, however.
"It was a really good decision," the father says. "Has it helped him academically? Yes, it has. Has it helped him athletically? Yes, but not as dramatically as academically."
His son says: "It gave me another year, and I'm definitely more mature. It's paid off."
The complete package as a passer, runner and field general, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Rossi has completed 62.3% of his attempts while throwing for 2,313 yards and 24 touchdowns with only six interceptions.