Here’s a dramatic switch, perhaps video games are actually illustrating an exemplary model for today’s youth.
Look no further than Nixa’s offensive backfield and the manner in which running backs Dylan Rebura and Malachi Rider have created as dynamic a duo as there is statewide. One can examine the selfless partnership they have formed and attribute their first social interaction as serving a fitting foundation for things to come.
They met in early June, shortly after Rider moved to Nixa from Kentucky and before the Eagles kicked off their summer workouts.
“We went to Colton's house, set up our PlayStations and played Fortnite,” Rebura said, referring to teammate Colton Hale. “That’s been one of my favorite moments.”
In its multi-players mode, Fortnite is succinctly characterized as “players collaborate to survive in an open-world environment.”
Likewise, Rebura and Rider have teamed to thrive in open spaces at the line of scrimmage and in opponents' second and third lines of defense. They have helped the Eagles churn out more than 3,000 rushing yards heading into tonight’s Class 6 Quarterfinal clash at Rockhurst.
Rebura has 168 carries for 1,249 yards, while Rider has rushed 147 times for 1,180 yards. Taking into account the dominance of Nixa’s offensive line, Rebura or Rider could be making a serious run at Ramone Green’s single-season school-record 2,223 yards rushing, if they were going solo.
Yet, through it all, a running back controversy, and yes there can be such a thing, never had a chance to even flicker a spark.
Immediately, Rebura and Rider welcomed the chance to work with and compete against each other. Both were assured such a scenario would bring out the best in each other.
“I had heard he was coming here and at first glance I thought he was a cool kid,” Rebura said. “We got together with Colton, since they were already friends (from their time together in Colorado), and we bonded. By the time we were on the field together, there wasn't a surprise or anything. I was happy to have someone to compete with.
“My friends thought I would be the only starting running back this year, so when he first came here they asked me what it's like,” he added. “I told them it doesn't affect me, I'm going to work hard either way.”
“I had the mindset, ‘I think I'm good enough to come in and take the running back spot,’” Rider said. “When I got here, I found out there was a running back who everyone was telling me is pretty good. Once I found out about him, I knew I had to keep working hard. That was going to be the only way I could stay in the game.”
Experience had already taught Rider the value of sharing the workload, or in his case not having someone to shoulder the burden. He started at running back at Paducah Tilghman as a freshman, sophomore and junior and each year was a feature back.
“I got pretty banged up because I was the only one running the ball," Rider said. “Here, I don't feel as banged up because I'm not getting all 50 reps. It's been nice.”
Jealousy has never reared its ugly head at Nixa. Even when Rebura was sidelined with a sprained ankle for Nixa’s season-opener and Rider debuted by rushing for 120 yards against Webb City, Rebura was happy for him.
They were quickly becoming the best of friends.
“It’s all worked out in my favor,” Rebura said of Rider’s arrival. “It's helped my character-build. I think a poor athlete is selfish. I found out I loved the kid. He's like my blood brother.”
“We fit pretty well together,” Rider agreed.
Indeed, it takes some digging to find any differences between the two.
Let’s allow them to point out their many similarities:
“We're not the tallest people in the world. But we make it work,” Rebura said.
“We're both very passionate and we both have a very good work ethic,” Rider said.
"We both wrestle," Rebura said.
“We're both well-rounded people,” Rebura said. “We literally like all the same stuff.”
"I’m a hip-hop, rap kind of guy,” Rebura said of his taste in music.
“I like hip-hop, rap and county,” Rider said.
“Yeah, I like a little country, too,” Rebura added.
“Science,” they replied eerily simultaneously when asked what class they don’t like.
“I hate math,” Rebura said.
“I don't like math, either,” Rider added.
“History is boring, too,” Rebura said.
“I didn't even take history this year,” Rider added.
“English is easy for me this year,” Rider said.
“Yeah, English is easy,” Rebura added.
“Most of the friends he has here I'm friends with also,” Rebura said.
“We play the field,” Rebura said when asked if either has a girlfriend.
“Yeah, pretty much,” Rider added.
“I've done some martial arts stuff, but probably not as much Dylan (who is an avid boxer),” Rider said. “I'm looking forward to doing more of that.”
“I drive a truck,” Rider said.
“I drive a Honda Accord,” Rebura added.
Screech, lo and behold, we have discovered a difference between the two.
“Yep, he drives a truck and I drive a car,” Rebura said.
Their backgrounds, interestingly, are a complete contrast.
Rebura is essentially a Nixa lifer.
“I was born in Springfield and came here my kindergarten year,” Rebura said.
Rebura’s formative years were spent in Colorado, prior to his three years in Kentucky.
“I've also traveled a lot, from being on so many many (national wrestling) duals teams,” Rider said., “It’s nice that I've seen areas I like and don't. It gives me an idea where I want to end up at.”
Looking ahead, Rider and Rebura figure to take different paths in life.
“I've thought about going the physical therapy route,” Rider said. “That’s always been an idea of mine.”
“I don't know what I want to do in college,” Rebura said. “But I do know I want to play football. Whenever that ends, because football isn't forever, I want to fight.”
Of course, as a junior Rebura, has another season to carry the ball for Nixa. Without another proven running back the likes of Rider around, he already knows things won’t be the same next year.
“It's going to be a lot different for me,” he said.