Friday Night Hero: East Rowan’s Max Wall

Published 8:35 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2016

By Mike London

GRANITE QUARRY — East Rowan head football coach Kenneth McClamrock was a senior football player at Concord High in the fall of 1998, so he remembers East streak Calvin Hayes Jr.
East took on Concord late in the regular season that year, and both teams were good. Concord prevailed, 33-21, despite six catches for 95 yards and two TDs by Hayes.
“Cal was a freshman when I was a senior,” McClamrock said. “I do remember him, but I really remember him more for baseball.”
McClamrock is not alone in that. Baseball was the No. 1 sport for Hayes, and it’s the sport for which the St. Louis Cardinals drafted him out of high school (Round 3) in 2002. Hayes was great as East’s four-year varsity shortstop and leadoff man — .404, 114 runs scored, 56 steals — and he was even better with the Rowan County American Legion team, where he still holds program career records for steals (141), runs (276) and hits (279). He’s also in Rowan’s top 10 all-time in doubles, homers and RBIs because he added power to his speed as he got older.
So, yes, Hayes was primarily a baseball player.
But he was still a good enough football player in 2001 to break the East rushing record that Randy Fowler had held since 1975. Hayes would own that school record for 15 seasons, an eternity for record-holding. Senior Max Wall finally broke Hayes’ mark on a 16-yard run in the third quarter of Friday’s 33-7 win against Salisbury.
“I saw Cal Hayes once, but I didn’t really get to meet him or talk to him,” Wall said. “Everyone tells me he was a great baseball player.”
Hayes’ football record has been broken by another multi-sport star.
Wall was the Dutch Meyer Award winner as Rowan County’s top wrestler as a junior. And in the Rowan County Track and Field Championships last April, Wall had second places in the 100, 200 and triple jump and a fourth place in the long jump.
Wall’s wrestling strength and quickness and his track speed and explosiveness are attributes that translate well to the football field. Listed at 5-foot-11, 175 pounds — he’s so powerfully built he looks bigger than that — Wall is a prototype back, combining speed and power.
Like Hayes, Wall has been a four-year varsity player, but their rushing numbers have followed very different routes.
Hayes was listed at 5-foot-8, 150 pounds as a freshman in 1998, and that poundage may have been generous. Jeff Safrit was the head football coach as well as the head baseball coach, and the last thing he wanted was for his shortstop to get battered on the football field. So Hayes was a receiver as a freshman and ran the ball just twice for 8 yards.
As a sophomore, Hayes’ rushing role was still limited. He had 70 carries that year for 573 yards. Most of his yards came in huge chunks in easy romps when his safety wasn’t in jeopardy — 188 yards against Mount Pleasant, 164 yards against Harding.
As a junior, Hayes became more of a workhorse for new coach Tom Eanes and had 103 carries for 832 yards.
As a senior, Hayes had grown to about 175 pounds and was frequently unbelievable for a 4-7 team, producing 1,253 rushing yards on 147 carries. That’s 8.5 yards per carry.
There was a night in 2001 against Robinson in which Hayes rushed for 344 yards — breaking the county record — and he actually got ejected in that penalty-marred, chippy game when punches were thrown.
He had to sit out the next Friday against North Iredell, but he came back with 201 rushing yards, plus a 91-yard kickoff return, against A.L. Brown, and then he rolled for 170 rushing yards against West Rowan in the final football game of his career.
Hayes finished with 2,698 yards. Wall is at 2,795 yards … and counting.
Wall has been less spectacular than Hayes, but the graph of his career is a steady incline — 619 rushing yards as a freshman, 928 as a sophomore, and 1,085 as a junior. He has 164 so far this season.
The season did not start well for Wall or East’s offense in a 28-14 loss at North Rowan, But Wall bounced back with 141 yards and two rushing TDs in Week 2.
“It’s not like we changed what we were doing between the North game and the Salisbury game,” Wall said. “We just worked harder for our second game and wanted it more. We showed we can have a pretty deadly offense. Our offensive line did a great job and when you run the ball a lot, it wears the other team down.”
Wall’s key run came when it was 7-all in the third quarter. Penalties had held the Mustangs back in the first half, but then Wall broke a 43-yard scoring run to put them ahead to stay.
“I stepped to my left and I saw a wall of white (East) jerseys,” Wall said. “I hit the hole as hard as I could, and I knew I had a chance to be gone. And then all the red jerseys were chasing.”
East played the Salisbury game on the road and without starting QB Tate Houpe (illness), so it was a critcal time for Wall to get back on track.
“We got the running game going and we got Max going,” McClamrock said. “We got in a rhythm on offense, and Max was making good reads. And the guys blocked well. Not just the offensive line, but the receivers on the edge.”
Wall may also be able to run down Hayes in career touchdowns, although there’s still some work to do.
Hayes scored 48 TDs for the Mustangs — 33 rushing, 10 receiving, four on kickoff returns and one on a punt return.
In Wall’s versatile career — he’s quarterbacked the Mustangs when necessary — he’s scored 37 TDs — 26 rushing, 10 receiving and one on a kickoff return. He’s also thrown eight TD passes and he’s even intercepted two passes.
The club of Rowan County players with 1,000 yards passing, rushing and receiving in their careers may have only one member — North Rowan’s Alfonzo Miller, who played against Hayes.
Wall has a shot at that unusual trifecta. He has 780 passing yards and 775 receiving yards.
Wall should be a candidate for football offensive player of the year and county athlete of the year, and he also has family reasons to have a big season.
His little brother, Sam, a 5-foot-7, 150- pound sophomore who lacks Max’s size, but who has similar speed, is on the East varsity for the second season. He hasn’t broken out yet, but it could happen.
“I know Sam is watching me, and I want to set a good example for him,” Wall said. “That’s one of the reasons that I drive myself.”