Similar goals and aspirations on the football field was the common thread that connected Jalen Salavea and Ty Evans when they first met in middle school.
That part hasn’t changed several years later, as the two begin their senior seasons leading a young Skyview team while continuing to push each other further toward their dreams of playing in college.
Yet whereas Salavea, a reigning All-Region linebacker/offensive lineman, and Evans, also an All-Region defensive/offensive lineman, were once just friendly competitors, their bond today encompasses more than just football.
Since they’ve lived in the same household for nearly three years, the two consider themselves brothers.
“We’ve been together for the ride,” Evans said.
Salavea and Evans were acquainted not long after Evans and his family moved from Las Vegas to Vancouver in eighth grade and attended Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
Salavea reached out to Evans on Instagram, forging a connection over their shared passion in football, then got to know each other better through training sessions and playing in 7-on-7 leagues.
They started high school at different places — Salavea at Hudson’s Bay, Evans at Skyview — and both thrived playing varsity football as freshmen.
That school year also coincided with the beginning of the pandemic.
Salavea began spending more time at Evans’ house, and nearing the end of the term in May, he decided he wanted to transfer to Skyview and live with the Evans family.
The two families — Salavea’s parents John and Joyce Salavea, Evans’ dad Jon and stepmom Stacy — sat down and determined Jon Evans would become Jalen Salavea’s temporary custodial guardian.
“It was definitely a big deal for both of our families, especially mine,” Salavea said.
Salavea still talks to and sees his family frequently and spends most of each summer with them, but everyone agreed the current arrangement works best, particularly during the school year. And, for the teenagers whose birthdays are just two days apart in December, they now have someone their age at home. Salavea is the youngest of six siblings, and all of Evans’ step siblings are older as well.
Once Salavea moved in, they became brothers.
“Ty definitely has some, like, in my culture we call it ‘uce.’ It’s like a brother,” Salavea said. “Me and Ty have that connection where like, he has a little (Polynesian) in him now. … I be calling Ty uce all the time. He definitely has a little Poly in him because he’s always being loud and stuff like that. I’m the more mellow one.”
In their ongoing development as football players and young men, Salavea and Evans have been together nearly every step of the way.
They’ve traveled around the country with Jon Evans to numerous team camps to get their names in front of more people. They train together three times per week with Steve Brannon, a former Skyview assistant coach. When Ty Evans received an offer from Western Oregon University during Skyview’s team camp in June, Salavea was right there to celebrate with him.
“We’ve spent a lot of time on the road together,” Jon Evans said. “That’s where the fun for me has been — seeing them grow and being able to spend time together in the summers where we just travel and experience those kinds of things together.”
The two have supported each other through all of those moments, but make no mistake, they also have a fierce competitive streak that pushes each of them further. When one experiences a moment of success, the other wants the same thing and more.
“When I moved in, we were always pushing each other,” Salavea said. “If Ty hit 300 (pounds), I’m trying to hit 315. If Ty squats 400, I’m trying to squat 415. … We like to push each other to the limit. We just want the best from each other.”
“We’re always in competition, but we know to never bring each other down,” Ty Evans added. “We always try and bring good spirits back up.”
Their senior year at Skyview coincides with significant changes on the Storm’s roster, following the departure of several impactful seniors from last season.
For Evans and Salavea, they’re now the undisputed leaders of a young team and they understand the responsibilities that come with the title. Part of that comes on the field by encouraging and motivating teammates while leading with their play.
“You can tell if we practice hard, they’re practicing even harder,” Evans said. “They want to be better than us, and that’s the mentality I think our whole team has and needs to have going into the future and the seasons to come.”
And, when they see the bond Salavea and Evans share as brothers, it serves as a model for the rest of the team to follow.
“I feel like the brotherhood we bring off the field, we also bring it on the field with all our other teammates,” Salavea said. “They see us, me and Ty coming together, they’re going to want to come together too.”