CANTON, Ohio – War on the football field often turns teammates into brothers. But at Canton (Ohio) South three friends growing up – led by highly touted junior Devon Torrence – didn't need football to build brotherhood.
They already had it because of a special relationship that was forged when Torrence's mother, Wanda Perrin, married Joe Waters. The marriage brought together three friends and turned Devon, younger brother Devoe Torrence and friend J'Keem Waters, into one big family.
Over the years, their friendship has transformed into something truly special and now the three are about as close as, well, brothers.
"Those guys mean the world to me," Devon Torrence said. "When we grew up, we would always compete against J'Keem in midget football. We were rivals. It was the Eagles verses the Vikings. But when my mom married his dad it was like a dream come true. We were already friends and competed against each other, so why not be as close as brothers and compete like brothers do."
And make no mistake there is a lot of competition. There is competition to see who is the fastest, who is the strongest, toughest, strongest, who dresses the best and about everything that typical brothers argue about.
So who's the fastest?
"No question is Devon," Waters said. "I can keep up with him, but he just seems to have that extra gear."
So who's the toughest?
"That would have to Devoe," Devon said. "He had to under go surgery when he was younger to remove a tumor from his nose. It's all right now and it was nothing bad, but he had to go through a lot of pain, so when we get nicked up we always think about how much he had to go through and then tough it out."
So who's the strongest?
"That'd have to be J'Keem," Devon said. "He's 6-foot-2 and about 230 pounds. He can lift a house."
When the question about who dresses the best came up, that's when the brothers began to squabble like most brothers do.
"Devon thinks he dresses the best," Waters said. "But we all know that I have the best style.
"I know we all think each other is the best at things and we compete all the time against each other, but no matter how much yelling and screaming we do at each other it's never a bad thing. It's always a good thing to know that you have your brothers to get your back."
The question of who is the best player is a tough one to answer.
Devoe is only a sophomore this season so he still has plenty of time to develop into the speedy outside linebacker or running back that many expect him to do. Waters is a fullback prospect that could also excel at linebacker if he's given a chance. But it's Devon that's the more ballyhooed heading into this fall.
When watching a highlight tape of South's 2004 season, Torrence could be seen flashing all over the place and making big play after big play in South's wing-T offense. Through four games this season he averaged 27.7 yards a catch and had 325 yards rushing and four rushing scores. Last year in a game against Louisville he had 127 yards rushing and 118 yards receiving.
"He's special," South coach Elmer Schuetz said. "I've been coaching for seven years here and for a long time before that and he is one of the most – if not the most – electrifying player I have ever coached. I've been around some good ones in the past and he has a shot to be the best by the time he's a senior."
Torrence said what he does best is make plays, whether it's a big catch, a big run, a play on special teams or on defense.
"I make things happen," Torrence said. "I get the first downs, cover guys well and make big sticks when we need it. I'm a team leader. It really depends on the situation going into the game what type of leader I am.
"If it's a game where we need to get real hyped, and I need to help my teammates out, then I'll get them jacked up. But if I feel my team is focused then I will talk to them real smooth. But if I need to get them up, and they're flat, then I'm going to get on them."
Torrence is such a good athlete there is a chance he might be drafted in next spring's Major League Baseball draft. He plays centerfield for South and earned all-area honors while batting almost .500 last spring.
He's already getting serious attention from Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame. He said he always wanted to play for Ohio State and the Buckeyes seem very interested early on.
"I always dreamed about being a Buckeye," Torrence said. "I've always wanted to be a Buckeye. But there are a lot of other colleges out there to keep in mind too. Ohio State is where I would like to end up. I just love the atmosphere up there. The fans are crazy and everybody loves them. It's Big 10 football.
"They said they want to watch film and for me to probably come to camp next summer. But they say they like me as an athlete. I'll do anything. I can do punt return, kick return, I can be a running back, and I can be a cornerback or safety."
But make no mistake about it the ideal situation for him would be to play college football with his best friends – his brothers.
He's not thought too much about life would be like without J'Keem or Devoe there every day, but he knows that someday he might be forced to make a decision that could split the family up.
"We would want to be a package deal, and if you look at it the college would be getting a perfect type of deal," Torrence said. "We're brothers, we've always played together, and we're great athletes. It's just a nice package.
"But if we had to split up, it would probably be no problem, but we'd like to go to the same school without question. I don't know how I would manage without them being there for me every day.
"It would be tough to handle because when you're tight with your brothers it's the best type of bond that you could ever have with anybody. It's not just about being a brother. It's about being best friends. I know I can count on those guys, and I don't want to have this brotherhood broken up."