STILLWATER – The voices beckoned throughout the South Hills High School fieldhouse.
Tylan Wallace and his twin brother, Tracin, shouted feverishly at each other. The budding stars were having a quarrel about who was the superior athlete.
Tylan and Tracin dropped their backpacks when the wrestling mat came into view. Their high school coach, JJ Resendez, could only stand and watch as they slammed onto the mat.
“They got after it for about five minutes, got back up and went back to class,” Resendez said. “Those two dudes, man. Those guys are special.”
Tylan’s playmaking ability has swept the college football world this season. He has established himself as the next great wide receiver at Oklahoma State because of his robust routes, forceful blocks and tenacious hands. As a sophomore, Tylan is a top candidate to capture the Fred Biletnikoff Award for the best receiver in college football.
His predecessor, James Washington, won the award last season.
But Tylan’s success has everything to do with Tracin’s struggle. The latter, also a sophomore at OSU, suffered his third major knee injury, a torn left anterior cruciate ligament, in four seasons in September, ending a year that began with promise after Tracin’s transition from quarterback to receiver.
There isn’t much Tylan and Tracin haven’t gone through together. Outside of the physical pain, those close to the brothers say Tylan was hurt more than Tracin when he found out his brother’s injury. As much competition as there was between the two, the wrestling match was a microcosm of who they would become.
Tylan and Tracin encourage and fight each other. Everything is a competition, especially when it came to athletics. They raised the bar at South Hills, resurrecting a program and taking it to the next level. At OSU, Tylan is no longer a budding prospect but the booming star. As Tracin rehabs, he can’t help but admire the accolades his brother is accumulating.
The twins’ mother, Mandi Moore, never pictured her sons becoming prominent this quickly.
Then again, not many did.
Resendez began to do his research on the twins the day he first witnessed them.
It was during a track meet when they were in sixth grade. In Fort Worth, parents and kids are able to choose which schools they want to attend. Resendez discovered Tylan and Tracin lived in the feeder school for South Hills.
He didn’t waste any time making sure they didn’t become Scorpions.
“You could tell they were special,” he said.
Donning the black and white wasn’t going to be a choice for Tylan and Tracin. Resendez made sure of it. He had coached former Dallas Cowboy running back Lance Dunbar. But Tylan and Tracin, he said, were more talented than Dunbar.
His case was proven on the opening day of summer camp. The two incoming ninth graders were small but not frightened. Timed sprints were on the docket, and as the team progressed through the sweltering Texas sun, two names emerged atop the list.
Freshmen twins posted the fastest 40 times. Players their senior watched in awe as Tylan and Tracin left others in the dust.
Resendez, though, could only smile.
“We were just like, ‘Oh my goodness,’” Resendez said. “You kind of knew already, but that kind of solidified it. Just watching them carry themselves and athletically, how polished they were, it was a no-brainer.
“You could tell they had a future in whatever they chose to do.”
There was a revolving door at Jerry and Sharon Moore’s house.
Mandi Moore’s parents had the hangout spot for Tracin, Tylan and other members of the family. At least once a week, the grandparents would have all of the family over.
When holidays came around, there was no catching up.
“My family is always over here,” Sharon Moore said. “Growing up, that’s what we would do. Tylan never missed an opportunity to come here.”
Sharon Moore and Mandi Moore described Tylan and Tracin as family-oriented people. That’s why it affected them so much when Jerry Moore died in September 2012.
Tylan’s biological father was not involved in his life, Mandi Moore said, so Jerry Moore took that role. Teaching the twins how to play sports, playing catch, shooting hoops. They did it all.
Although Tylan never showed it, Mandi Moore said not having his father around affected Tylan more than he wanted to talk about.
For Tylan, Jerry Moore’s impact on him was tremendous and continues to be, even when he is missing those family dinners back home.
“He would always go out back with us and play catch,” Tylan said. “He tried to push me to be my best. I was just happy to spend the time that I had with him.”
Tylan was at a baseball tournament when he found out Jerry Moore had passed. Baseball was one of the sports his grandfather pushed him to be his best and wanted him to try.
The family dinners continued, with just one smiling face waiting in the home when family came over instead of two. Yet everyone was there for Sharon Moore, and she said the tight-knit group was something she could always hold onto when times got tough.
Mandi Moore always worried about her sons, like any mother does — are they doing well in class, staying out of trouble? With Tylan and Tracin, it was different.
The boys would go to school, come home and spend time with family. In between was the various sports they participated in, but family remained first.
Mandi Moore is thankful for that.
“We had a single-parent household, which a lot of things come along with that,” Mandi Moore said. “Other struggles and their difficulties. He did not let any of that get to him and was able to just persevere and stay on track and keep his mind right and focus on making good choices and decisions and doing what he needed to do at school and being the best person that he could be.
“And I think it easily could have gone another direction, but he made up his mind that he wasn’t going to let that happen.”
The conversations seemed repetitive, but Tylan was curious.
“Why aren’t any of these schools offering me and Tracin?”
It was a weekly conversation between the four-star prospect and Resendez. Offers quickly began to roll in after an All-State performance during Tylan’s junior season, one he had predicted during the previous fall.
As a sophomore, the last time he played a full season healthy, Tracin received All-State honors as a quarterback. Not to be outdone by his brother, Tylan promised he would steal the show the next season.
Steal the spotlight he did. And with that came more scholarship offers.
But not from Texas schools, including some less than five minutes from South Hills.
The twins were a package deal. To recruit Tylan was to recruit Tracin. They had spent their lives together, and from their sophomore season on, it was clear to every coach who stopped by.
But none of the Power 5 schools in Texas liked that idea. OSU and coach Mike Gundy, though, wanted both. Tylan had the makings of a talented outside receiver who was a vertical threat. When healthy, Tracin was an All-State quarterback and a brilliant athlete.
“I know they hold it in their heart, and not to say that they’re pissed off, but they always held it as a chip on their shoulder that Texas, TCU, Baylor didn’t come calling like they should have,” Resendez said.
Before their senior season in March 2016, Tylan and Tracin verbally committed to OSU. The decision was easy for Mandi Moore because OSU coaches valued her sons as people, not just athletes. Academics was important, and then there was a football.
In the waning moments of OSU’s upset of then-No. 6 Texas on Oct. 27, Longhorns’ defensive end Breckyn Hager drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the play for a late hit on Tyron Johnson. The hit drew Gundy on the field, pulling his players back. When Gundy ran out, five officials had to restrain Texas coach Tom Herman, who had sprinted onto the field while shouting at Gundy.
Off to the side stood Wallace, staring at the Texas sideline while doing the ‘Horns Down’ gesture. What were they going to do? He had just caught 10 passes for 222 yards and two scores, helping keep OSU’s bowl hopes alive.
“I kind of take the Texas schools personally when we play them,” Tylan said. “Especially being around in that area and not receiving even an offer from them. I feel like I take those kind of personally and go out there and do what I do.”
Tylan’s voice continues to echo.
He has become one of the Cowboys’ leaders. His best performances have come against teams ranked in the top 10. On Saturday against No. 9 West Virginia, he’ll have another chance to showcase why he is an All-America candidate.
Tylan never ceases to surprise her, but Mandi Moore never saw the football player in him when he was younger.
He remains the little boy playing catch with his grandfather in the backyard.
“The person he is on the field is someone totally different than what he is off the field,” Mandi Moore said. “He’s so tough and into it on the field and he’s just laid back and mellow off the field. He’s two different people in a way.”
Tylan plays for Jerry Moore, who watches him every game. He plays for his family at home, who watch closely every sweeping catch and thrilling play he makes. He plays for his brother, who he sees every day but isn’t able to share the field with.
Through everything, Tylan is thankful.
“(Tylan) was born to play football,” Resendez said. “He wakes up, and he really adheres to that mentality that he doesn’t have to practice, he gets to practice. He enjoys the process. A lot of people are in love with winning. Tylan loves the process that leads to winning.
“There’s just not another … well, there’s Tracin.”
Tylan’s success isn’t a surprise to those who are close to him, but without his brother pushing him, neither would be where they are today.
Tylan’s success wouldn’t have come without Tracin’s struggle. But in time, they will share the field again.
“I think he’ll be back stronger than ever, like he has all these other times before, and it’ll be all right,” Tylan said.