“Week two, senior year, West Bloomfield,” John Paddock and Jack Sape said as they chuckled, sharing a glance at the Ball State Football team meeting room.
Recalling their favorite memory of playing high school football together, Paddock and Sape finished each other's sentences.
Similar to Ball State’s situation coming into the 2022 season, Paddock and Sape’s Bloomfield Hills was picked to go 0-8, dead last in their conference.
Their school’s rival, West Bloomfield, was the number one team in the state with double-digit Division I commits, but the Black Hawks came back after being down 24-7 in the fourth quarter to win the game.
“John had a fake spike on the one-yard line and won us the game there,” Sape said.
The two share memories of their high school days and poke fun at their younger years in conversation.
Paddock and Sape played against each other in elementary school youth sports, more than five years before they played together at Bloomfield Hills High School and almost a decade before they both committed to play for Ball State Football.
“They both were great high school football players who were a steady force in building teammates up, always in a positive manner and always displayed success on the field with a sense of grace and respect for the game,” Bloomfield Hills head coach Dan Loria said. “Their leadership skills were natural and exemplified the leadership skill we want in our program, one that influenced and directed players always in a positive way.”
The pair were adamant about their Division I goals early in the recruiting process, with Paddock describing Sape as a “juggernaut” in the process.
“[Sape] got a lot of deserving attention after junior year,” Paddock said. “I really didn’t have my breakout year until my senior year. My junior tape was okay, and we had a great year, but Jack really had a dominant junior season.”
Sape, now a redshirt junior defensive lineman, committed to Ball State early in the recruiting process but knew that his high school quarterback could be an asset to his new team.
“I kept pushing to have them look at John, and I’m glad they freaking did because [he] can sling the ball, and I’ve known that for a long time,” Sape said.
Paddock got a chance when a Ball State area coach was in town to watch Sape play. A couple of weeks after their initial conversation, Paddock threw for the then-offensive coordinator Joey Lynch, the older brother of current Ball State offensive coordinator Kevin Lynch, and it all started fitting into place.
When Paddock decided to commit, Sape was one of the first people he texted. The two held a joint signing day in December 2017, a culmination of their effort coming together.
“A lot of dreams, a lot of nights of uncertainty; the recruiting process is very rigorous and can really suck sometimes,” Paddock said. “I just think a lot of that coming to fruition and then obviously flipping the switch and being like ‘Alright, now it’s time to get to work,’ but it was just a great day of celebration.”
Arriving in Muncie, Paddock and Sape were not early enrollment players, so they were thrown into the fire right away with classes, practice and in-season schedules.
“Here it was brand new,” Sape said. “It’s cool having someone, just like us two being from there, and it’s been awesome being able to play by John.”
For Sape, it was the importance of having a connection to home, a familiar face in the new environment.
“I think it's definitely been something where we can just lean on each other … if we ever need anything,” Paddock said. “Probably from more of an athletic perspective because when you start your college career, it's really, you know, it's a completely blank slate.”
They both knew it was going to be an adjustment, but knowing that they had similar experiences in high school and came from the same culture, made the transition easier.
“It was definitely helpful like having someone you know to ground you to home, and it wasn’t too bad of a process coming here or anything, it ended up being a great experience,” Sape said. “It’s awesome having someone here that you’ve known for so long to continue greatness here.”
Loria still catches as many Ball State games as he can from Michigan, and paddock and Sape get calls and texts from Loria after most games. The connection and bond is something Loria said will stay throughout their lives.
“I feel so blessed to have been a part of their lives as I am blessed to have them in my life and the impact that they made on me personally and professionally as a high school football coach,” Loria said. “They are two outstanding young men that we need more of in society today.”
The Cardinals (5-4, 3-2 MAC) sit second in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) West Division, hoping to secure bowl eligibility and/or a trip back to Paddock and Sape’s home state for the MAC Championship in their final three games of the season.