DAVIS — The wind calls for a brisk pace as three families, unified by common greatness, push past the gravel parking lot and through the red doors of Davis High School.
After 18 years of prayers, hopes and college football dreams, everything was laid out ahead of them.
Three sheets of paper on a red Davis tablecloth — the future rests upon the past.
Pride-eyed fathers — seeing each other in clashing colors for the first time — trade nods and handshakes as they await the defining moment.
The next chapter is black and orange, blue and gold, and scarlet and grey for Davis’ big-three.
“Y’all ready?” Former Wolves football coach Jody Weber asked, waiting for parental objections before his expression grabbed the attention of his 17th and final batch of National Signing Day seniors at Davis.
In the middle sits QB1 Briston Summers, the fleet-footed soul of Davis’ wishbone offense who also dabbled in safety and took All-State honors.
To the left, Blake Neal, the fiery running back and inside linebacker that never shied away from contact.
To the right, Gunner Arms, the matchup nightmare at tight end who seemingly came down with everything chucked his way, and when blocking, imposed his unique brand of backward-launching carnage.
“Come on, form a line,” Weber said. “We gotta go.”
Three Davis giants, all of differing stature, rose together.
From freshman to leaders to now. They won a state title their freshman year and went to the state semifinals twice, all while keeping the district-win and playoff-appearance streaks alive.
Then, one by one, the three Wolves embarked on separate futures, singing National Letters of Intent to play college football.
Blake Neal signed with Friends University. Briston Summers signed with East Central University.
Gunner Arms went first, signing with Northeastern Oklahoma University A&M College (NEO) to play tight end for the Golden Norsemen.
NEO, the junior college powerhouse in Miami, OK, wins and produces Division I talent.
Since December, two area athletes have left NEO for Division I programs, Ardmore defensive back Kevion McGee signed with Kansas State and Madill offensive lineman Judge Hartin signed with Tulsa.
Arms will look to do the same, hoping NEO's offensive machine unlocks his potential at tight end.
At Davis, Arms mastered the fade route and led the team in every receiving category except touchdowns.
With Davis running the ball 90 percent of the time, Gunner Arms did most of his work in the blocking game for the Wolves. He’ll be expected to use that skill in NEO’s high-powered spread offense that averaged 244 yards rushing a game in 2017.
But how NEO uses Arms in the passing game will be most intriguing.
When throwing to every other Davis player this season, quarterbacks Briston Summers, Peyton Webber and Noah Goodin completed 40 percent of their passes (27-67) for 426 yards.
When targeting Gunner Arms, the completion percentage rockets to 75 percent
And these aren’t dinks and dunks. Arms averaged over 18 yards per catch this season. And nearly all came on fade or seam routes where he would bully corners, post up safeties and punish anyone who tried to jump with him.
The Davis passing attack was simple. Throw it high, and Gunner will probably come down with it.
“Jump balls are fun,” Arms said. “It’s something I can show right away at NEO."
Arms will be playing under first-year head coach Zach Allen. Allen has coached at NEO for nine years and in 2017 was the running-game coordinator. Coach Allen replaced Clay Patterson who also left for Division I football, taking a job at the University of Minnesota as a tight ends coach.
Arms isn’t worried about the adjustment from the wishbone to NEO’s spread, seeing the change as an opportunity.
“It’ll be different from the wishbone, but I think I’ll get a hang of it,” Arms said. “They like to use a lot of tight ends and I think I’ll figure out a way to fit in.”
In two games, NEO threw the ball more times than Davis did all season.
And while schematically they couldn’t be further apart with Davis’ methodical, clock-eating offense, at NEO Arms said he sees a place similar to home.
“It was special to get to play at a place like Davis, where winning is the tradition,” Arms said. “At NEO it’s the same. Like Davis, they have a great tradition and they win. I go there expecting to win.”
The Running Back
While many felt joy or excitement on National Signing Day, Blake Neal, Davis’ fiery running back and inside linebacker, felt relief.
Neal had offers, and he liked what each had to offer. The problem? He couldn’t make up his mind.
But on Wednesday, Friends University pulled ahead of the pack, and Neal went all-in with the Falcons, signing his national letter of intent to play college football at the NAIA school in Wichita, Kansas.
“A lot of great places wanted me so it was hard making a decision,” Neal said. "It's a relief. I'm ready to move on and play football."
And while he’s crossing state lines next year, moving 3.5 hours away to Wichita, Kansas, Neal won’t be straying too far from Weber’s wishbone offense.
Neal, while averaging 9.7 yards per carry, led Davis with 789 yards rushing in 2017. He racked up 12 rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown.
Neal said Coach Menely and the Falcons run the flex-bone, a system based off wishbone concepts.
“It’s pretty similar to our offense,” Neal said. “I look forward to seeing what I can bring to it.”
Beyond producing, Neal brings an edge when he’s on the field. At linebacker, he flew to the ball. At running back, he opts for the truck stick instead of the spin move. Running through peoples face is the only way he knows how to play.
“Football is either a game you hate or you love,” Neal said. “If you get the passion for football. You play hard and you never want to stop playing.”
Neal had the choice of playing linebacker or running back at Friends. Last year, Neal was sixth on the team in tackles and was second behind only Gunner Arms in tackles for loss with 12.
Davis quarterback Briston Summers got a head start at Davis, as the only eighth grader on the roster in 2013. On National Signing Day from the Davis High School library, he was the last to go.
Six months earlier, Summers’ arm faced the wrong direction and he thought he’d played his last football game ever.
After surgery and rehab, Summers came back within two months, and in just six games, finished the year leading the team in carries, total yards, and touchdowns. Not to mention a state title run that came just short against Washington in the semifinals.
And when he wasn’t juking into the end zone or getting ground into a pile of dust and lineman, he played safety well enough to be named All-State on defense in 2017 by the Oklahoma Coaches Association.
Despite all this, the offers stopped streaming in after word of his injury got out.
But he got the only offer that mattered.
On Wednesday, Summers signed his National Letter of Intent to “make plays” at East Central University in Ada, signing to play for new ECU head coach Al Johnson.
And while Summers expected to receive offers from other schools before he broke his arm, he said ECU already claimed his heart.
“This was my first choice all along,” Summers said. “I didn't get back with any coaches or try to contact other schools. I knew I wanted to go there the first time I walked on campus.”
After seeing the duo have so much success in the 2014 Class 2A State Championship, and Briston's individual prowess and playmaking at Davis, ECU will bring the Summer family-football-band back together, as Briston joins his brother Blake on the field at ECU.
Summers said playing with his brother will be special, but it wasn't necessarily a deciding factor.
Summers signed as an athlete. And after playing on both sides of the ball at Davis, he’s having a hard to time picking between his two true loves, offense and defense.
Both are tricky.
Summers will either face the unique situation of competing for a starting spot against his older brother — who will be a redshirt junior groomed for the starting safety spot once Briston arrives — or learn a completely new position at slot receiver.
He hasn't made up his mind but said he wouldn’t object to taking the time to learn a new position.
The Davis quarterback just wants to do what he’s always done. Make plays. At ECU they're giving him a chance to do just that.
“I’m excited they’re giving me a chance to still get the ball in my hands,“ Summers said. “Offense would be fun, but I’ll play where they need me."