Freshmen follow one path, but to two destinations

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Dom Davis took over the quarterback role for Mount Union after throwing just nine passes in the first five games.
Photo by Mike Dear for d3photography.com

By Adam Turer

When you’re a freshman charged with carrying on Mount Union’s dynasty, it helps to have the man who helped start the dynasty in your ear.

When you’re a freshman intent on breaking up that dynasty, it also helps to have the same man in your corner.

Mount Union quarterback Dom Davis and John Carroll quarterback Anthony Moeglin have plenty in common. Both are first-year starters for OAC powers. Both are from northeast Ohio. Both are leading their team into a national quarterfinal game on the road this week. 



They also share the same quarterback guru. Davis and Moeglin have been training with Jim Ballard since they were freshmen in high school. Ballard is the College Football Hall of Famer who led the Purple Raiders to their first Stagg Bowl championship in 1993. He now operates Ballard Quarterback Academy, providing tutelage for up and coming prospects in northern Ohio.

Over the past few weeks, Ballard has gone through a series of emotions. He proudly watched Davis capture the Purple Raiders starting job midway through the season. He endured Moeglin’s bittersweet victory over his alma mater. Now, he is enjoying watching both protégés advance through the postseason.

“Dom and Anthony are so similar,” said Ballard. “They’re just gamers.”

Training with Ballard during the summer also fostered a friendship between the rival quarterbacks. Long before they committed to the two programs atop the OAC, they pushed one another at Ballard’s camp. This season saw the competition come to fruition in Week 11. They made sure to seek each other out prior to that game and wish each other good luck. Then, they did what they have done for half a decade under Ballard’s supervision: they competed.

“We’re good friends when we go to Coach Ballard. It was always really competitive. That’s just who we are. We’re both gamers, we both like to win,” said Davis. “You kind of saw that in Week 11, going back and forth with touchdown passes in the second half.”

As much as it pained Ballard to see his Purple Raiders lose to the Blue Streaks, he was proud that the quarterback he calls ‘Nine Weeks’ was the one to lead the upset.

“I call him ‘Nine Weeks’ because I’m always going to root for him nine weeks out of the year,” said Ballard. “I told him if we were to lose, I’m glad it was to one of the guys I work with, especially the kind of kid that Anthony is. He’s just a tremendous kid. He’s got a great family.”

Ballard also worked with Moeglin’s older brother, Tyler, who earned All-OAC honors while playing for Baldwin Wallace in 2015.

“He’s been incredible,” said Moeglin. “Even since I said I was going to John Carroll, he’s still cared about every step of my journey and been there for me, which has been awesome.”

Ballard’s relationship with Moeglin remains strong, but it’s different compared to the bond he shares with Davis.

“For me to be able to work with a guy who is having success at the school that I went to, it’s special,” said Ballard. “It really is such a cool thing for me because it’s so easy for me to relate and understand what the program is. It’s easy for me to talk to Dom about what to expect.”

Although he was an OAC legend, spending one year at Wilmington before transferring to Mount Union and shattering Division III passing records, Ballard had little impact on the quarterbacks’ college decisions.

“He told me to go anywhere I want because he thought I could play anywhere,” said Davis. “When I told him I was going to Mount, it was that much sweeter because he went there.”

Moeglin is in his second year at John Carroll, but redshirted his freshman season. The reason for his redshirt is emblematic of his toughness. During his senior season of high school, Moeglin dislocated his shoulder. He had doctors pop in back in so he could finish his season. Then, he postponed surgery until the spring so that he could lead his high school basketball team one final time. The surgery was a blessing for Moeglin, who was able to learn the John Carroll system without being able to play immediately.

Anthony Moeglin started at quarterback for John Carroll this season from Week 1.
Photo by Joe A. Colon, d3photography.com

“It’s been huge for me to have had that year under my belt, just to learn how to be a college kid first. I was able to adjust to the classroom and to not being at home. That’s a tough challenge in itself. To have a year to figure that all out without having the pressure of playing really well was really significant in my growth,” said Moeglin.

“That’s what’s so amazing about what Dom’s been doing. He’s a true freshman who’s adjusting to college classes, managing his time, and at the same time he’s throwing a bunch of touchdowns and completing 65 percent of his balls. It’s just awesome what Dom’s been able to do. From my experience, it was definitely huge to have that year where I could learn how to adjust to the life of a college kid before I had to be able to play some football as well.”

Davis had to be patient as well, but not in the same way. He was healthy and ready to start right away, but was third on the Purple Raiders’ depth chart. Injuries paved the way for him to make his starting debut in Week 6, and he seized the moment. 

“He just had to wait his turn,” said Ballard, whose weekly calls helped Davis remain patient through the early part of the season. “When he got in, I told him to just relax, play smart, and do his thing. I can tell every time I talk to him, he’s getting more and more confident.”

Both players give Ballard credit for helping them grow mentally as quarterbacks. Ballard spent ten years playing professionally, in the NFL, NFL Europe, CFL, and AFL. He won the Gagliardi Trophy his senior year while leading Mount Union to its first national championship.  

“The mental aspect I’m way better at now because I’d go watch film with Coach Ballard,” said Davis. “He knows way more than I do and he taught me a lot about coverages and the mental aspect of the game.”

“When I started out, it was more about the mechanics of playing the position,” said Moeglin. “As I grew older, it became more him helping me with the mental aspect of the game, looking at defenses, trusting my eyes, just trying to be able to grow from a mental standpoint because playing quarterback is 90 percent mental.”

An all-OAC Stagg Bowl rematch remains a possibility. To get there, both young quarterbacks will need to take what they’ve learned from Ballard and make smart plays while protecting the football. Both benefit from tremendous defenses, so Ballard encourages them to only make a pass if it’s wide open. There’s no need to force the issue when you have a defense that can get the ball right back in your hands.

The friendly competition is now a budding rivalry, one that Ballard will be keeping a close eye on for the next three years and, he hopes, for the next three weeks. 

Dec. 8: All times Eastern
at Mount Union 28, Johns Hopkins 20
Video Box Score Recap Photos
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 31, UW-Whitewater 14
Box Score Recap Photos
Dec. 8: All times Eastern
at Mount Union 28, Johns Hopkins 20
Video Box Score Recap Photos
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 31, UW-Whitewater 14
Box Score Recap Photos