Former Dorsey Football star Antonio Carrion was once considered to be the best wide receiver in southern California and the nation. His battle with Bipolar Paranoid Schizophrenia led him to homelessness and the Criminal Justice System, showing the lack of institutional resources put in place for people living with mental illness.
Throughout the years, Dorsey High School football program housed top tier athletes. One of their skilled players was Antonio Carrion, who made Dorsey a force to be reckoned with in the early 90’s.
Carrion was a member of the Dons’ 60-player roster, he was well known around the school, but was treated equally to his skillful teammates. He was never treated as though he was the star of the team.
Assistant coach Irvin Davis was an academic advisor to the team at the time noted that Carrion was nice with a warm spirit and sublime athletic skills. Watching Carrion play was “an incredible experience.”
“He’d always made a big play,” Davis said. “He was making the catch when we need the catch and he put the ball in the endzone, and he would always be able to get open.”
Swift and nimble, Carrion knew how to avoid tackles and how to catch bad passes. While he was primarily a wide receiver, he made plays as a rusher and punt returner.
In his junior year, Carrion led the City Section in interceptions converted to touchdowns. He accumulated 650 receiving yards and six touchdown passes, two touchdown runs from 95 rushing yards and one touchdown return. He helped the Dons in achieving an undefeated season. Their only bump in the road was Banning High School.
Gun shots rang out during one of Dorsey’s games. Although no one was hurt, Banning did not want to travel to Dorsey to play their in-season matchup and forfeit the game.
Supporters of Dorsey were offended by the move, so when the two teams were to square off in the championship game, the matchup was given added hype.
“Going into that championship game, it was a big, big deal because of the forfeit,” said former Dorsey football head coach Paul Knox. “We played them in the championship game, and it was a big, big crowd there and we were able to win that game and Antonio made some big plays in that game as well.”
While the Dons football team had many talented players, Carrion’s talent attracted much attention and acclaim. According to the L.A. Times, Carrion was noted as a “top receiver prospect” by scouting evaluation company Fallbrook. Many college programs showed interest in Carrion, including UCLA, USC, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Michigan, Washington, and Miami.
Carrion’s talents became nationally recognized by ESPN and Sport Illustrated Magazine.
“He got the media attention, but that media attention labeled him,” Knox said.
A photo caption in the Sports Illustrated article stated that he was a gangbanger although he was not affiliated in any gang. Carrion soon after announced that he was filing a lawsuit against Sports Illustrated and planned on enrolling at Granada Hills for his final semester in high school.
Tragedy fell on 18-year-old Carrion when his younger sister died from complications from cancer only days before her 15th birthday.
Carrion planned to sign with San Diego State, but did not enroll or play a game there. He played basketball at West L.A. College on and off. Friends and family noticed that Carrion was acting differently.
Carrion was eventually diagnosed with Bipolar Paranoid Schizophrenia. He soon disappeared and his mother, Stephanie Nieves spent years looking for Carrion, driving throughout Los Angeles for several hours at a time.