Jordan Wallace needs to find his brother.
Only a few minutes remain until Wallace and his brother Kevin Davis are to play the biggest game of their life, and one last item remains on their pregame to-do list.
Wallace spies the white Warren Central jersey emblazoned with a black numeral six that his brother wears and the two of them head immediately for the end zone.
They kneel among the purple painted letters of Carmel High School’s end zone. They pray together, the same way they have done before every game they had ever played together as teammates.
Even if it’s the last game the two seniors would ever play in together wearing Warriors jerseys, it won’t be the last time they will ever play together.
A snowball effect
From the first time their father introduced the game to them, the brothers planned on playing together. Of course they would go to the same high school. But even before then, they had dreamed of playing together in college.
They dreamed, but it wasn’t until June 2010 that colleges began calling.
With University of Cincinnati Head Coach Butch Jones watching, members of the Warren Central team participated in a practice under the hot June sun.
The brothers, along with their teammates, impressed Jones. They impressed him so much that Jones offered Davis a scholarship, making him the first in his class to
receive an offer.
“For me, it made me more hungry,” Davis said. “I was like, ‘I can’t settle. Not only do I have this offer, but I’m trying to go to this school and play and then do well at that school so I can go pro,’ so it put more pressure on me.”
Jones also expressed interest in Wallace, and a reporter from Rivals.com talked to both of the brothers afterward. Davis assured the reporter that this was only the first of many and this would begin “a snowball effect” of offers.
The Indiana Sectional 5A title game between Warren Central and Carmel was not the first time the two teams had met in the 2011 season, and this particular game had quite a bit to live up to.
Not only did many of the top recruits in the state take the field, but during the first meeting, the Warriors won the game on a field goal in the final seconds.
“It’s hard to beat a good team twice, and we beat them with five seconds left the first time,” Wallace said. “We knew it was going to be tough.”
Half the players on the field were playing their final game of the year, and many would finish their high school careers on that field. Davis began the game by doing everything he can to ensure he won’t be one of them.
Senior quarterback Kyle Faunce dumped a screen pass into Davis’ arms, and Davis began to pump his legs.
As Davis blows past defenders, Wallace begins to rush toward the field out of excitement. Then-Head Coach John Hart and other coaches hold him back from interfering with the action.
85 yards later, Davis stops running and hands the ball to the referee in the
end zone. 6-0 Warriors.
By the middle of the second quarter, Warren Central has a stranglehold on the game, leading 20-0.
For Davis and Wallace, the snowball of offers continued to roll. Purdue, Western Michigan, Illinois and IU all threw their hats into the ring for either of the two. It was something Wallace had always dreamed of.
“I didn’t really watch too many cartoons when I was little,” Wallace said. “I was always watching ESPN, and to be able to look up my name on Rivals the first two weeks I was on Rivals, I think I was on that website so much.”
In early May 2011, then-Arkansas Offensive Coordinator Garrick McGee dropped by a Warren Central workout to see their wide receivers. McGee had helped a Razorbacks offense that had only thrown for 2,125 yards in 2007 — the year before his arrival — to throwing for 4,338 yards in 2010, his first year as offensive coordinator.
McGee didn’t have his eye on Davis, but Davis’ first moment on the field changed that.
Faunce saw Davis open over the middle for what looked like a five- or 10-yard gain. He hit Davis in the hands, and Davis did the rest. Nobody touched him as he ran past the defense and 50 yards into the end zone.
“(McGee) walked over to me and said, ‘Hey, we’re offering that kid,’ and called Coach Petrino,” Hart said. “They weren’t even there for him.”
It had taken Davis just one play to garner an offer from perhaps the best college in the country for wide receivers.
As Davis had struck Arkansas just months before, the Greyhounds of Carmel begin to strike quickly against Warren Central. Weeks earlier, they had trailed the Warriors 19-0 at halftime and ended up taking a late 20-19 lead before Warren Central kicked a field goal as time expired.
Carmel chips away, cutting the lead to 10 by halftime and to just three at the end of the third quarter. This looks familiar.
The brothers look to their faith, which had begun years before with Davis, for aid throughout the emotional, hard-fought game.
“Kevin helped me get more in touch with God,” Wallace said. “Everything happens for a reason, and I feel like God made that game happen for a reason.”
Not a package deal
Davis respected the Arkansas offer, but what was most important to him was with whom he played: his brother.
The brothers made it obvious they wanted to play together, and coaches took that to heart, often offering both of them a scholarship.
They knew the only way to get one was to get both.
“It wasn’t a secret,” Davis said. “Everybody knew it, but we wanted somebody that wanted us for us.”
When they visited Indiana on June 23, 2011, they found that “somebody” in IU Head Coach Kevin Wilson.
“It’s not a package deal,” Wallace remembered hearing from Wilson. “I don’t do package deals. Kevin, I want you for this, this and that. Jordan, I want you for this, this and this. It’s not a package deal.”
The visit completely changed their opinion of IU. While driving to Bloomington, the two had been “dogging IU,” as Wallace said, “judging a book by its cover.”
They were in the car riding home when they both simultaneously told their parents to turn the car around. Their decision was made, and they had made it together.
The clock is ticking away during the sectional championship, but time is on Warren Central’s side. They leads 30-27 with 3:03 remaining.
Carmel is deep in its own territory with Wallace and the tough Warrior defense standing in the way.
Warren forces Carmel into a third-and-11. They convert. They do the same with a third-and-eight. With 38 seconds left, the Greyhound offense is just 27 yards from a score. Wallace and his defense need a stop, and it is fourth-and-five.
Warren Central is one play away from ensuring victory.
Carmel quarterback Brandon Denning completes a pass for 11 yards on the next play, setting up what will become the final defensive play of Wallace’s high school career.
Carmel running back Jalen Duncan receives a handoff and bounces to the left side, breaking through to the end zone to give the Greyhounds their first and final lead of the game.
34-30 Carmel, 23 seconds left.
On the final play of the game, Davis lines up to Faunce’s right with two other receivers. They streak down the field as the clock fills with zeroes. Faunce heaves a desperation pass toward the end zone.
Sprinting for the ball, Davis watches as the pass gets to the five-yard line before any of the receivers. It’s knocked down just in front of him, and Carmel defenders leap and yell with joy.
The sideline to which he returns is one of despair.
“I couldn’t cry about that game,” Davis said. “I saw everybody upset, and I just couldn’t cry. I was more worried about how everyone else was feeling other than myself.”
For the time being, Wallace is crushed.
“When you’re at an age when you don’t really have any bills to pay and you don’t have anything to worry about and all you care about is football, it hurts to lose that kind of game,” Wallace said.
In a Columbus, Ohio hotel 200 miles from Indianapolis,, Mike Ekeler, the assistant coach at IU who had recruited Wallace, gets a call on his cell phone.
A quick glance at a clock in his hotel room reads 5 a.m. His team is just seven hours away from playing Ohio State, who won the Big Ten the previous season.
Wallace is on the phone.
Still shaken up from the loss hours earlier, he wants to talk. Ekeler picks up.
“He taught me about life and being a man,” Wallace said. “At that point, that confirmed that I made the right decision. I can call this man at 5 in the morning the day they’re about to play Ohio State and get over a situation.”
Something to make it better
Their Warren Central careers are over, but Wallace said the excruciating end to his high school career happened for a reason.
“Now we know what it feels like to lose big games,” Wallace said. “But now that we’re at IU, we’re going to get back to a big game so we know what it feels like to win it.”
They’ll have that opportunity when the season begins in September, but for now, they will work with the IU strength coaches to prepare for the season.
The sport was good for them in high school and should continue to help them adjust to the ups and downs of college life, Hart said.
“Football is one of those very emotional games, and sometimes, you’re tired or you’re beat up and you have a tough day and you have something to do to make it worse or better,” Hart said.
When they don’t have football, they have each other.
The brothers moved into their new homes at Ashton Quadrangle on June 3. They’re not in the same room but admitted they would probably be spending quite a bit of time in each other’s rooms.
Whether the two are kneeling in an end zone praying or simultaneously making a major life decision, they will continue to do it all together.
“The next four years of my life whenever we go our separate ways or start our own families or whatever, I just know that he’s always been there for me, and he’ll always be there for me no matter what,” Davis said.
From childhood to college, brothers play for each other
Jordan Wallace needs to find his brother.