Tylan Wallace became Superman when he was 3 years old.
As he wrestled with his brother, Tracin, their young imaginations led them to assume superhero alter egos. Tracin chose Batman, but his twin pretended to don an “S” on his chest and a red cape.
As a junior wide receiver on the Oklahoma State football team, Tylan holds on to his association with his favorite comic book hero. His name on Twitter is “SUPERMAN,” eight capital letters that remind his mother, Mandi Moore, of when her sons were children. During Tylan’s sophomore season, reporters and fans latched on to the Superman moniker. They recognized Tylan as a breakout player in the midst of the Cowboys’ up-and-down year.
Entering this season as the face of OSU’s receiving corps, he said his experience has increased his confidence.
“I’m calm out there,” Tylan said. “I’m not as jumpy as I was last year. I’m kind of just settling in and understanding.”
Tylan is again on the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, which honors the top collegiate receiver, after he landed a spot as one of three finalists in 2018. Although Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy won, Tylan rose to national prominence.
He had 1,491 receiving yards, second behind only Massachusetts’ Andy Isabella, and 12 receiving touchdowns. Tylan’s accolades included two first-team All-America honors and first-team All-Big 12 recognition.
“I think I always knew that he was capable of that,” Moore said. “I knew that his abilities, that they just really have always been there. It’s kind of like both of them, both of the twins were really just born with this really innate athletic ability. Any sport they ever tried, they were just always good at it from the very beginning, and football was the same way.”
Their nicknames, like their athletic skills, became parts of their early personalities. Pee Wee football coaches in the Wallaces’ home city of Fort Worth, Texas, recognized them as Superman and Batman. On an elementary school picture day, Tylan and Tracin wore T-shirts showing the logos of their favorite superheroes. Moore said one Halloween, Superman costumes were sold out where she was shopping, so twin Batmans went trick-or-treating instead.
Although Tylan and Tracin formed distinct personas, they share a tight bond. They were OSU teammates until Tracin announced this summer that he was retiring after three ACL tears and four surgeries. He has taken on the role of student coach, a new way to experience football with his brother.
Tylan can outplay defenders who attempt to break up passes in the end zone, but if Batman had departed from OSU, that might have been Superman’s kryptonite.
“I don’t know what it would be like if Tracin wasn’t still there,” Moore said. “I don’t think Tylan would be 100 percent just because of their closeness, their bond and how important they are to each other. I think that it makes a huge difference in Tylan really being focused on the game and having the support from his brother still.”
Kasey Dunn, OSU’s associate head coach/receivers coach, said he thinks Tylan will play with an elevated sense of urgency after Tracin’s retirement. Dunn described this season as a “prove it year” for Tylan.
“Everybody says, ‘Was (last year) a fluke?’” Dunn said. “…He came out of nowhere. Well, at the end of the day, let’s prove it, let’s back it up. And he’s got the skill set to do it, so I’m not concerned about that. I want him to have a little bit of a chip on his shoulder to back up a year like last year.”
Despite the attention increasingly surrounding Tylan, OSU coach Mike Gundy said Tylan is the same guy he was during the past season.
Gundy has told his teenage kids to follow Tylan’s example.
After the Tulsa World’s Frank Bonner II wrote an article about Tylan’s commitment to classroom work, Gundy shared the story with sons Gunnar and Gage to show them how they should approach their studies. Gundy emphasized Wallace’s quote in which he said he ensures his homework is complete on Wednesdays before he travels on Thursdays for games.
He also described Tylan as a workaholic on the field.
“If there’s any young people out there that are looking for a mentor, there’s your mentor,” Gundy said.
To some wide-eyed, young fans, Tylan and Tracin are practically real-life, college-aged superheroes.
During the past season, first grade kids at Mitchell Boulevard Elementary, where Moore is a social worker, were not only learning math and spelling but also casting Biletnikoff fan votes for Tylan. He and Tracin volunteer at Mitchell Boulevard when they go home and have gained celebrity status among the students. Tevin, the twins’ 10-year-old brother, watches Tylan’s highlights on TV and on the internet, thrilled about the plays whether he has seen them once or many times.
Those moments show Moore that though Tylan’s days of pretending to be an action movie character are done, he hasn’t outgrown the Superman title.
“It’s been fun,” Moore said. “Really exciting for everybody around us. I’ve lived in Fort Worth my whole life, and (Tylan and Tracin) grew up here their whole life, and so we know lots of people from Pee Wee football and other sports on up through high school. And everybody’s just so excited about his success.”