Todd Hunter could have been anybody's kid.

A high school jock who struggled with grades but scored high marks on the football field. A loving son whose unkempt room tested his parents' patience. A grocery produce worker who ran with the rich kids. A feared competitor - yet a cuddler who protected his tiny niece from emotional bruising.A leader among the well-known, well-liked students and a friend to those on the fringes of acceptance in adolescent society.

An all-around good guy. Yet a guy who ended up hurting everyone around him.

Like the $215 state football championship ring he was saving to buy, to many teens Hunter epitomized success.

But like most humans, he feared failure, and that fear cut short his athletic career. It also ended his life.

The Alta High School football captain wore the ruby championship ring only once - in a coffin at Goff Mortuary.

The specially engraved ring was Lynn and Ramona Hunter's last gift to their 200-pound, 17-year-old son, who was standing on the threshold of adult life, then tragically ended that life.

Last month Hunter put a gun to his heart. But it's in the hearts of family and friends that a gaping hole remains.

"Maybe when you get a kid that is so successful and so loved and so much what everyone else wants to be, that's a little more responsibility than he can take," said Ramona Hunter, who found her son's lifeless body on her bed in the family's Draper home.

"Some of the fun in our youths' lives has been taken away by the pressures for grades, to be part of a group - to conform, look good. When you have a child that succeeds, one of the problems with success is that you are afraid to fail."

Mrs. Hunter was willing to share intimate reflections of her youngest son in hopes of helping other youths visited by a litany of fears.

Her message to them: Suicide isn't the answer. The victim, selfishly hoping to ease the pain, hurts loved ones in the process.

"I am angry at Todd. I have told him that, but he hasn't answered me," she said, dabbing the tears. "I know where he is. He's safe, but he's not happy. He wanted too much what his future had for him. Maybe someday he will be happier, but he's not now. He doesn't want to be there; he'd rather be here."

Todd expected his senior year to be the brightest of his life and a preview of greater things to come.

Alta's football team trounced the defending champion Orem Tigers to capture the state 4A championship. Todd was one of five players named All-State and one of seven Hawks awarded athletic scholarships to Dixie College.

He had put money down on a trip to Mazatlan and was going to Las Vegas with friends during spring break to watch classmates play in a baseball tournament. He talked about renting a limo for the junior prom.

"You won't talk with anyone who didn't like Todd. It isn't that he grew more heroic because he died; he really was truly loved," said Olivia Smith, mother of Stephan Micklos, a close friend to Todd.

Todd had many friends.

He also hosted some cruel companions: poor grades, physical ailments (from a knee injury), financial worries, drug abuse.

Lynn Hunter said that two years ago, after suffering a serious knee injury in a game, Todd took one series (six weeks) of steroids - against his parents' wishes.

"I think the reason he did is to get back and play football and be somebody. He lived for football," his father said. "But I can swear on a book that he never touched them after that. He could never hide anything from me."

But both parents said they knew Todd had "a problem" with Robitussin-DM, an over-the-counter cough suppressant that has become the newest teen fad drug.

"Apparently it had been going on for the last year, on and off, but he was trying to solve the problem. He had talked to us in great depth about it, but I am one of those naive people who believes everything everybody tells me and the situation as it appears to be," said his mother, who in nine years missed only two of her son's football games and wrestling meets. "I think the Robitussin could have contributed to his death."

They believe there were other contributors - like Todd's slipping grades, which cost him his slot on the wrestling team and which he feared would affect his future.

"He was afraid that he wouldn't be able to maintain who he was when it came time to put his toys away and go out into the real world," said Smith.

His friends said his biggest fear was not being able to provide for his family.

"Of all Todd's friends, he was the least well-to-do. I don't have a problem saying that because I believe we are good people," Hunter said. "A week or two before he died, he said, `I want to be successful enough that if I want to take my family on a vacation to Hawaii, I can.'

"Our vacations were camping. We have never been to Disneyland."

Todd wanted more for his folks.

"One of his friends told us that the reason he wanted to be successful and make a lot of money was because he realized how much we had sacrificed for him, and he wanted to take care of us."

Mrs. Hunter said Todd had dreams of becoming a child psychologist. "But he had adults laugh at him, saying he wouldn't make it through the tough classes."

Todd feared they were right and began to sluff school.

"And anytime Todd did anything, everyone knew about it," Mrs. Hunter said. "He talked to us about the pressure he felt from being made an example of. He was reprimanded more severely than anyone else might have been. Teachers seemed to be saying, `Todd isn't getting away with it, so don't try it.' "

Not surprisingly, Todd's sensitivity compounded his problems.

"He was so compassionate with everyone else, I think he absorbed a lot of their problems. He felt a responsibility to take care of everyone else. He didn't have the heart to turn anyone away. It was a lot of pressure to take."

Ironically, friends said, Todd Hunter could help everyone else - but wasn't capable of helping himself.

"I think it got to a point that things that should have been molehills became mountains," Mrs. Hunter said. "Like my husband said, he tried to climb the mountain instead of going around it."

That was evident Feb. 27.

Todd had visited his mother early in the afternoon at the grocery store where they both worked. He was cheerful and, as always, teased "Madre," as he fondly called her, about money.

"He wanted to know if there would be enough money out of his paycheck to take his girlfriend skiing and enough money out of mine to get his football ring," she said. "But he had a look in his eye I have never seen before and I still can't put a word to it. It was a different look. I just wanted to grab on to him and not let him go."

But the Hunters' 6-foot-1 son returned to school, where he was unusually affectionate with friends. No one sensed he was saying "good-bye."

Just hours later, Mrs. Hunter found her son dead.

"The look on his face was, `Oh, Mom, what have I done,' " said Mrs. Hunter, letting the tears flow freely. "It wasn't Todd who pulled the trigger. If it had been Todd in his right mind, he would have thought about the hurt he was going to cause everyone else. He would hurt himself before he would hurt anyone else."

Dozens of family members and friends are still bearing the pain that only time will ease.

The memories of player No. 58 are still too fresh.

Todd Hunter was buried March 3 in articles of clothing owned by his closest friends - their symbol of love to a teammate who lost the final game.