You know those State Farm commercials, the ones with Aaron Rodgers and Chris Paul fighting losing battle after losing battle with windows, roofs, logic and gravity? You know what Tracy Davis calls them?
“Last year, when they left for college, me and my husband spent several thousand dollars repairing our house,” says Tracy, mother of Nebraska Cornhuskers defensive linemen Carlos and Khalil Davis. “Because when they were still here, if we try to paint it, they’ll break it.”
Carlos checks in at 6-foot-2, 300 pounds. Twin brother Khalil is 6-2, 290. Before they got turned loose on Big Ten blockers, the sophomores were holy hell on furniture. If they weren’t racing each other around the house, they were wrestling like a pair of agitated bear cubs. The floor was the mat, the walls the cage, and any bed was a potential trampoline.
“And believe me, they tore up the bathrooms, the beds — they were sleeping on the mattresses on box springs on the floor because they broke the beds,” Mom says, laughing softly. “They broke the lamps. They broke the lights. They broke so much stuff, it was ridiculous.”
If the crimes against appliances were awful, the cover-ups were worse.
“They would get my glue gun and try to [fix] stuff,” she recalls. “And whenever I talked to them [about it], they’re like, ‘Oh, it’s been like that.’”
Mother’s Day is next Sunday. Remember her. Remember who tried to set you on the path. Remember who tried to shepherd you right back to it every time you strayed.
Remember the collateral damage.
They do. To the last shard.
Carlos throws a shoe at Khalil, Khalil throws it back, shattering a crystal lamp in the crossfire. Dad leaves his truck out near the basketball hoop, and rather than wait for him to move it, the boys decide they’ll just try to shoot around it. A few minutes later, one of the truck’s side mirrors is toast.
“One day, I was sitting in the kitchen and I just feel this drop on my head,” Tracy says. “And I went, ‘What? What is this dropping? What is this water on the kitchen table?’ I look up and the ceiling is dripping.
“So I run upstairs to the boys’ bathroom. Of course, Carlos is taking a shower with the curtains all open. And I’m like, ‘Why are you doing this?’”
There’s a special place in Heaven, the old proverb reads, for the mother of two boys. Which means Tracy Davis has a box seat and a valet service waiting a few clouds over from St. Peter.
“She’s definitely the person where if she says, ‘Jump,’ they would say, ‘How high?’” Dave Podjenski, the Davis twins’ defensive line coach back at Blue Springs (Mo.) High School, says with a chuckle. “Whatever Mom says goes. There wasn’t even a question.”
‘You can take them out anytime you want’
Behind every killer lineman — two, in this case — is a mother who had to figure out how to raise, clothe and feed the bugger. A woman with a steel backbone and a soft embrace, a firm hand and a forgiving heart. It’s not for everybody.
“Two hundred dollars a week in groceries,” says Carl Davis, Tracy’s husband. “Which is what, $800 a month? But one thing I can say is that [the twins] didn’t let food go to waste. It was a rare occasion when they let something go to waste.
“We would stock up on things. We’d go to Sam’s Club and get some Eggos where they sell them in bulk.”
Tracy and Carl both worked full-time while raising Carlos and Khalil, and more often than not, ends met. Mom navigated the grocery store like a trader on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange, squeezing as much bang as possible out of every last buck. She knew to the day when Wal-Mart would mark down its meat, given that the boys could each down a pack of chicken thighs — six of ’em — in one setting.
A box of Brown ‘N Serve turkey sausage patties — eight patties in each — lasted two days, tops. Tracy counted a tube of Pillsbury biscuits per twin, per breakfast, as a starting point.
“Khalil,” she says, “would eat a whole carton of eggs in a day.”
“Oh, my goodness,” she says. “They didn’t even share. I don’t even know if they shared ice cream. At one point, I was buying them their own ice cream, just by the gallon.”
At 16, the boys were each 6-1 and 230 pounds-ish, the metabolism humming along at Mach 4. When they weren’t tearing up house and home, Carlos and Khalil were eating them out of it. Things got to the stage where Carl took a second job, for a spell, just to cover the dang groceries.
Mom Rule No. 3: Don’t invest serious bucks in any food item that isn’t on sale.
“I would try to stock up,” Tracy says. “That’s how we were able to really try to feed them … I spent a lot of my food budget on whatever was on sale that week.”
Podjenski recalls the first time he asked Tracy and Carl if they wouldn’t mind if he took the boys out for a meal. It was as if Christmas had come early.
“She said, ‘You can take them out anytime you want. Our food bill is unbelievably high with the two boys,’” the coach recalls. “[She said], ‘Anytime you want to take them out to dinner, we’ll never, ever say no to you guys.’”
‘They recorded themselves jumping and doing somersaults off the bed’
Mom couldn’t say no to those eyes, either. All four of them.
Tracy and Carl had two girls together. Dad had a hankering to raise a football player.
They’d talked about adopting, and when they reached out to a local agency, they were thrilled to hear that a beautiful, precocious 9-month-old boy was available.
With one caveat: He had a twin.
“[That] never crossed out minds,” Mom says now. “But when we met them, we just fell in love.”
The Davises adopted the pair, and the rest is football — and food — history. Tracy and Carl have a good relationship with the twins’ first foster mother, who walked the boys from their first week of life into the Davis household.
“They weren’t walking,’ Tracy says. “They were running.”
And they haven’t stopped.
— D. TwinTerrors (@DTwinTerrors) October 29, 2014
Carlos is the ringleader; Khalil is the youngest — “by five minutes,” Carl notes — and more the mama’s boy.
“His siblings and I know that this is her baby,” Dad laughs. “I think he gets fussed at the most. But I don’t think he really minds getting fussed at, to be honest with you.
“Carlos reminds me of his oldest sister. If you tell them something, they always try their best to make it happen. Carlos would probably take heed to do that, [and] with Khalil, you’ve got to tell him four or five times and then stay on top of it and then stay on top of him to make sure he stays on top of it.”
Mom and Dad like to crack that when something breaks, when something goes wrong, and the boys are involved, the truth will come out eventually. It just might take a month. And it’ll take a private moment, one ratting out the other, the way brothers do.
“They’re always trying to get each other in trouble,” Tracy says. “Even now, they will tell me what the other one [did]. If I think the other one is being good or making good decisions, the other one [says], ‘Well, Mommy, you don’t know what Carlos does.’
“They start tattling on each other to prove the point that when I think one of them is making good decisions, they want to prove the point to me that that one is not making good decisions.”
Although it was usually a joint effort, and on at least one occasion, Dad had the evidence to prove it. One night, Carl brought home a new camera he was training on to sell to potential customers. When he took it back to the office a while later to demonstrate the video recording capabilities, he found that there was already some footage saved on the internal drive.
“They recorded themselves jumping and doing somersaults off the bed,” Dad recalls.
“One night, a year later, my wife and I are lying in bed, watching TV, and the next thing you know, the bed just collapses.
“And the first thing I thought was, ‘It’s them — jumping on our bed, doing somersaults and laughing and recording themselves doing it.’ [Tracy] looked at me and just shouted, ‘CARLOS AND KHALILLLLLLLL!’”
‘They just tower over her, but she totally controls them’
Mom Rule No. 6: Shoot for ‘A’s.
She’d accept try-hard ‘B’s, but that was the floor. Grades at Blue Springs High were accessible online for parents to peruse, and Tracy preferred to track progress, or lack thereof, in real time.
“’C’s were never acceptable with any of my kids,” Tracy says. “They knew, if they brought home a ‘C,’ they were going to be cleaning house until the next the report card comes out. No activities. No watching movies. No TV.”
And if she ran out of chores, she’d call family members to see if they needed anything done around the house.
“If they brought home a ‘C’ for a mid-term grade, it was never a ‘C’ on their report card as a final grade,” Mom says.
The twins got the hint. Usually. If they bombed badly on a test or an assignment, Tracy would email the instructor to ask about went wrong, how she could steer them right, or to see if they could do it again.
As helicopter moms go, Tracy was an Apache Longbow.
“They just tower over her, but she totally controls them,” Podjenski says. “They would be losing their phone and because of stupid things they’d do.
“She would ground them all the time. They would always be in trouble. But they totally respected her. When Tracy talks, everybody listens.”
‘I just want them to not be in trouble’
Mom Rule No. 7: If you’re not home by 9 p.m., kiddo, the cellphone goes back to me. No exceptions.
“I would say, ‘Hey, you didn’t call me back,’” Podjenski says. “[They’d say], ‘My mom took my phone because I didn’t do my dishes.’ So they were always grounded for this or that. Or ‘I lost my driving privileges for a while.’”
If parenting boys is a chess game, the sane moms are the ones trying like mad to stay two moves ahead.
“They just kept going,” Tracy says. “They did not get tired. And so we realized we needed to keep the boys busy in order for them not to break stuff. Because they tended to break stuff when they were not busy.”
Or, on occasion, even if they were. One February, a football coach from the University of Missouri was slated to come over to make a last-ditch recruiting pitch. She gave the twins specific instructions to return right after school and clean the house before the arrival of said coach.
Tracy came home from work to find the house as she had left it earlier in the day. And no boys.
“Of course, I’m calling [Carlos], and they were at somebody’s house playing video games,” she recalls. “I start going off on them, of course, so then they rush home.”
So much of a rush, in fact, that Carlos drove their gold Suzuki Forenza straight into the family’s metal garage door. No. 96 got one of his slides stuck and couldn’t hit the brakes in time.
Or so the story goes.
“I’m like, ‘Will y’all hurry up and go? Can Nebraska hurry up and take you?’” Tracy laughs again.
“Because I’m tired of everything getting broke.”
Six more shopping days left.
“Probably a lot of furniture,” Podjenski chuckles.
“Clean my house,” Tracy says.
“They can’t ever save any money, so I’m not looking for them to get me anything. I just want them to not be in trouble. For the whole summer, don’t get in trouble.”
Remember her. Remember every missed curfew, every scrape, every hug. Otherwise, she’ll run up to Lincoln and kick you — both of you — where the sun don’t shine.
“When they’re between the white lines, they are probably the meanest, toughest guys I have ever coached,” Podjenski says. “But then when you’re in public with them, they are the nicest people that you could meet.”
Thank Mom for that. Now. Always.