Michigan City-La Porte rivalry game pits one Salary brother against two others
Should Jamaal or Noah Salary make a big play for La Porte in tonight's game at Ames Field, it'll be a tricky moment for one of Michigan City's assistant coaches, the one that happens to be their brother, former Slicers star Charles Salary.
"It's going to be weird," Charles said. "If they do something good, it's going to be hard to hold back. I want them to have great games, but I also want them to lose. At the end of the day, Michigan City's on a roll and I want us to win to keep it going."
If it seems odd for a Salary to be saying 'us' as opposed to 'them' in reference to the rival Wolves, it's because it is.
All six Salary boys went to La Porte and five of them either played or are playing varsity football for the orange and black. Charles, a workhorse running back who went on to be named NAIA Player of the Year at Marian, carried the Slicers to the Class 5A state title game in 2014.
"It was exhilarating to see my brother, to see him every day putting it out there on the field," Jamaal said. "It really inspired everyone."
Following his graduation from Marian, Charles was applying for teaching jobs locally and would land offers from La Porte, Michigan City and Crown Point. As much as the idea of returning to his hometown and being on the coaching staff of a team that included two his brothers -- Noah is a junior lineman -- may have appealed to Charles, it was not a no-brainer.
"The plan was to come back home," he said. "It was along process, waiting to see what I could get a position for, a teaching opening. I applied at a lot of places and they all hit with offers at one time, and I chose Michigan City. It came to teaching either Science or P.E., and I chose P.E. I felt like I had a job to do at Michigan City, that I needed to make a difference there. It would have been great to coach my brothers, a fun experience, but at the end of the day, I had to do what's best for me and my family."
While it isn't what Jamaal was necessarily hoping for deep down, he probably understood there was a part of Charles that, deep down, may have wanted to give him and Noah their time to shine by themselves.
Jamaal Salary shakes loose from a Crown Point defender for a La Porte touchdown in last week's Slicers win. Jamaal wears the same number (20) that his brother Charles, now a Michigan City assistant coach, wore at La Porte. (Photo by Jay Anglin)
"I wasn't really disappointed," Jamaal said. "He did what he had to do, and that's how it fell. I wouldn't say I was really surprised. (Michigan City) had what he was looking for in a coaching job. He's always been a big role model in my life. He taught me everything I know, getting up at 6 a.m. to work out, what it means to be a hard worker. He always keeps an eye on us. He talks to me about getting my cuts right, cutting at the right time, being physical. He's continually pushing me."
It was no different for Noah.
"The decision is his decision and he had to do it to support his family," Noah said. "I get his choice. He's a leader. He pushes us on the field. He was even teaching us during college. We'd go over film and he'd help me. He's a hard worker, and I try to match it."
Being on opposite sides of the rivalry hasn't changed the bond among the brothers.
"What's great about it, when I told them it came down to Michigan City as the place to go, they were 100 percent supportive," Charles said. "That made my life easier. We still talk, text. I watch film with them, tell them what they do wrong, what they should do here and there. It's nothing different than if I was at their school."
Jamaal even carried on the family tradition of wearing the No. 20 that Charles made famous, doing so with his brother's blessing and encouragement.
"He emphasized to me about starting my own legacy, not being in his shadow," Jamaal said.
Noah's size forged a different football path for the junior lineman.
"I was big when I was younger, and it just stuck with me," Noah said. "I played some fullback in middle school. They asked me if I wanted to play some running back, but I said I'm cool with being a lineman. I like it. I'll keep it."
Regardless of their positions, the same tenets that guided Charles' career are what he emphasizes with his brothers.
"It wouldn't be fair for me to put the same expectations on them that I put on myself because I expect a lot of myself and I don't expect them to be me," he said. "That's a lot of pressure. I just push them to be the best they can be, to continue to get better. We still work out together and I teach them as much as I know, that there isn't anything they can't do. I tell them to be themselves and to do their best. There's no fault in that."
Soft-spoken and humble as a player, Charles never had a letterman's jacket and
Jamaal is no different, noting they're 'just not that type of people.'
"I never wanted it," Charles said. "I just gave my patches to my mom every year. I don't know where she put them."
Other than a few jerseys, Charles said he doesn't have much La Porte clothing in his closet anymore, that his wife McKenzie, a La Porte volleyball assistant coach, took them.
Jamaal doesn't believe it for a minute.
"Don't let him lie," he said. "He still had a little orange."
The week leading up to Friday's La Porte game with Michigan City has been particularly exciting for the Salarys, given the circumstances, with plenty of playful jabbing.
"We just talk trash a lot more now, since we're playing each other," Charles said. "It's really fun."
The boys aren't above making some friendly wagers, though their bets usually revolve around push-ups.
"It's always a way to create competition in the house," Jamaal said.
As if a a rivalry win isn't enough, now the in-family stakes are raised.
"It's a big rivalry with huge implications, I believe," Charles said. "I don't expect to lose. I also know every game Michigan City is going to play hard, and La Porte's going to play hard. When we lost my
Current La Porte quarterback RJ Anglin is pictured with Charles Salary when Salary was a star running back at La Porte. Salary is now an assistant coach at Michigan City.
(Photo by Jay Anglin)
senior year, it left a bad taste in our mouth, but nobody really talked about it until the next game came around (and we won)."
The teams split their meetings last year with La Porte winning the sectional game, as it did in Charles' senior season.
"Off the field, we're family. On the field, we're rivals," Noah said. "It's all business for us and it will be all business for him, too. It's a big game, a rivalry, brothers against brother for the first time ever in the family."
Whatever happens, all three know they'll be hugging it out afterward.
"It's a game of mixed emotions," Jamaal said. "We're opponents right now and then best friends after the game. It means the world to me. I've been working my butt off. It's an opportunity for me to create my own legacy as a player. Instead of being Charles Salary's little brother, I'll be Jamaal Salary."