Posted: 6:40 p.m.
Anderson High School running back Elijah Storey, who wears Shaun Alexander's No. 37 on Friday nights and Rudi Johnson's No. 32 on Sundays, has had all the answers the past month.
But when it comes to which jersey he'll wear this Sunday when his Bengals play his cousin in Seattle ...
"Oh my gosh, I don't know," Storey says. "I guess I have to be rooting for Shaun, but it's going to be a tough one to watch."
Storey has been easy on the eyes this season, where he has been the prep version of a brew of Johnson's power and Alexander's precision in barging to fourth place on the rushing list in Cincinnati's renowned world of schoolboy football.
Storey's 624 yards in four games have lifted the surprising Redskins to 3-1 and quite nearly to 4-0 last Friday night in a game that may already be on ESPN Classic. Behind Storey's relentless 199 yards, Anderson rallied from a 31-9 deficit only to lose on a two-point conversion to heavily-favored Hilliard Darby, 39-38, in overtime.
"I heard he started off quite well; that's all I know," Alexander says from Seattle.
But Alexander knows the answer to the jersey question. He knows because Alexander is a Cincinnati kid himself as the most durable thoroughbred to ever come out of Florence, Ky.
"There's nothing better than being in the sixth grade and the Bengals going to Miami and that's kind of how I look at football," Alexander reminisced of the Super Bowl season for the Cincinnati media via conference call Wednesday. "I remember I was young and it was exciting and the Bengals were doing it."
So he knows what is going to happen Sunday.
"He's not really torn. He's not really torn," Alexander says of Storey. "I know. 'I want my Cuz to have a great game and the Bengals to win.' I know because I was like that. You want your favorite player to have a great game, you want your team to win it. So I've already forgiven him for it."
Hopefully he'll forgive former Anderson head coach Vince Suriano for stealing his play out of the Seattle playbook.
"The outside zone play. I put it in there for Elijah last year and they're still using it," says Suriano, now the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Mt. St. Joseph College. "He's got a lot of the same characteristics as Shaun. He runs almost exactly like him. They've got the same mannerisms and they've got good vision and a knack for getting to the hole."
Elijah Storey jokes that he's more of a bruiser than his cousin, but why not? He not only has a poster of Alexander in his room, but also one of Rudi, Rudi.
"I like the way he plows right into the middle," he says. "I try to be a combination of both of them."
But he also has posters and jerseys of Chad Johnson and Carson Palmer.
"Chad likes to have fun and he's one of the fastest receivers out there," Storey says. "They're fun to watch."
There are favorite players and favorite teams when you've grown up somewhere your whole life.
Storey's father, William Storey Jr., grew up as close as brother and sister with his cousin, Alexander's mother, Carol Alexander, in Covington, Ky. She settled in Florence and Bill raised his family on Cincinnati's east side in Anderson Township and they remain inseparable in family affairs. On Friday night Carol crossed I-275 to watch the Darby game.
"When Elijah was little he went to some of Shaun's high school games at Boone County," says Storey's mother, Rashile. "But it wasn't until he started going to the games at Alabama that he really got interested in what was going on. And Shaun would spend time with him."
Probably about sixth grade. About the age that Alexander, a future NFL MVP running back, fell for a Super Bowl running back named Ickey Woods. There is no 'Bama in Storey's future. But Division I schools are scouting.
"He would take me in his car and drive me around and we would talk sports," Elijah Storey says of those home games at 'Bama. "And he'd tell me to stay connected to God no matter what I decided to do."
The families are strong Christians. Bill is a prison minister who tends to much of the flock downtown at the Hamilton County Justice Center, and named his youngest child Elijah because he envisioned his son as a great leader. He has had both parents as role models as Christians, but they're pleased that Shaun also offers an example.
Rashile was so proud of Elijah when he came back from Alexander's all-sports camp in North Carolina this summer.
Except that he didn't come back with that beautiful pair of $100 cleats.
"I got really upset," she says. "He told me that somebody stole them. He said, 'That's OK, Mom. Somebody must have needed them more than I did.' I think that shows you what kind of person he is."
Storey was one of 50 high school and college students that Alexander sends each year to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes all-sports camp that is a partner with his foundation. Storey learned to secure the ball and put on some more weight and a lot more than that.
"We teach them about our sports and also about our faith," Alexander says. "It's OK to love Jesus Christ and go out there and want to be the best. Jesus wasn't soft. He was a victor. It's OK to have great goals and to want to kick people's butt on the field and still be humble and love Jesus."
When his Bengals land in Seattle on Friday, Storey is going to be on the road himself at heavily-favored LaSalle. Named after one Bible story, he has already reminded his mother about another one.
"He told me, 'Mom, you know how it turned out with David and Goliath?' "
No matter that score, he will be wearing a number Sunday.
"Yeah, I'll probably wear 37," says Elijah Storey, a Cincinnati kid still not tipping his hand on the rooting interest.