As Dwight Enis sat on his riding mower about 16 years ago, his wife, Judy, approached him with the telephone.
It was a call from Sam Wood, his daughter Ami’s boyfriend.
“He got on the phone and just told me, ‘Hey, you need to come to Dayton, man,’ I said, ‘What’s going on?’ He said, ‘Ami and the babies, the little boys are down the street,’ about a block from him,” Dwight Enis recalled of his conversation with Wood.
“ (H)e says, as far as he knew, they hadn’t been raised right. They had been sleeping in a car.”
Dwight jumped off his lawnmower in Saratoga, Ind., in northern Randolph County and hustled to Dayton to pick up Ami’s two babies, 2-year-old Kiante Enis and 3-month old Trestan.
Sixteen years later, Kiante Enis’ career as one of the area’s top athletes in three sports is nearly complete at Winchester High School.
He was the Tri-Eastern Conference Player of the Year in basketball as a sophomore, the Mr. Football position award winner at running back this season and has been a state qualifier in the 100-meter dash. On Thursday, he will compete at the Indiana High School Athletic Association boys track and field regional at North Central in Indianapolis as he tries to return to the state meet.
On June 2, he will report to Indiana University in Bloomington, where he will play Division I football.
Trestan still has two more years at Winchester.
It’s easy to overlook what Kiante and his brother, better known as Boo, have had to overcome.
It’s scary for Dwight and Judy to think back and imagine what could have been had Dwight not rushed to pick them up.
Ami was Dwight’s daughter from another marriage, but Judy welcomed Kiante and Boo, raising them as her own.
‘Get your act together’
Dwight’s advice for Ami was simple.
“I walked up to the car, and the little boys were sitting in the back. I said, ‘I want to get those boys.’ She said, ‘Well, you need to.’ ” Dwight said.
“I said, ‘I’m going to take them,’ and I said, ‘When you get your (act) together, you can come get them.’ I threw them in the back of my car and headed back home with them. That’s how I ended up getting them.”
What wasn’t so simple was getting Boo and Kiante to adapt to living with strangers.
“Some people will say, ‘At least they got to go to their grandparents. They didn’t have to go to their foster home,’ but they don’t realize, we had seen these babies like twice in their whole lives,” Judy said. “They didn’t know us. We went and got them in our house, it’d be like going into a foster home, because it wasn’t like grandma is down the street like some of my other grandkids, so they didn’t know us.”
She said Kiante was a handful. He was scared of Dwight because all he remembered at the time was watching her mother get beaten by her boyfriends.
“I remember one time, he took off his belt, I didn’t do anything wrong, he was just taking it off to take it off, so I saw he was taking it off, I got scared of him, I ran and I hid under a table,” Kiante said of Dwight.
Had Dwight not picked up Kiante, he likely would have been one of the youngest kids in a juvenile detention facility, Judy said.
For Boo, well, it’s even scarier to think about.
“I’d probably be dead,” he said.
“He got sickle cell” anemia, a group of disorders that cause red blood cells to become misshapen and break down, Judy said. “I got a hold of Ami and said, ‘You’re going to have to come up and sign papers because I can’t even get him medically treated.’ I had no rights. So she came up and signed off on him.”
Boo was too young to ever really bond with his mother.
Kiante on the other hand, loved his mother and every once in a while, when she came around, he dreamed of moving back with her. That dream never came true.
“It was just harder for me to let go of everything. She was my mom,” Kiante said. “It was pretty much just me and Boo. When I came here, I remember when I came here the only person I’d ever talk to or play with was Boo. Like anytime she had to take Boo someplace, I’d just start crying because I didn’t want my brother to leave, because he was the only one I had left. I just called him my baby.”
Ami now lives in Evansville with her two daughters, Mikayla Walker, 14, and Aaliyah, 13, about 120 miles from Bloomington, where Kiante soon will be living as he attends college.
She walked onto the Winchester basketball court with Kiante on Senior Night. The relationship between the two still is a work in progress. But it’s getting better.
Meeting their other brothers
When the time came to sign legal guardianship papers, Dwight and Judy talked to Wood again. They didn’t want to let Ami sign Kiante and Boo over without getting Sam’s signature first.
Growing up, Kiante said, he saw his father about six times.
He remembers meeting his brothers during a baseball game in Greenville, Ohio.
“I saw a pitcher pitching for Greenville, his last name was Wood, and I went up to my grandma, I said, ‘That’s my brother.’ She’s like, ‘Are you sure?’ I said, ‘Yeah, that’s my brother,’ ” Kiante said. “I looked like the older one. There’s two older than me. During the game, I went over to the dugout and I was like, ‘Hey, you guys are my brothers.’ And one of them was like shocked. He yelled at the one that was pitching, he said, ‘Hey Quinton, we have two brothers, and dad didn’t even tell us.’ “
Sam has four sons aside from Kiante and Boo: Quinton, Devin, Trae and Marcus.
“Boo comes up (to bat) one time and he says, ‘Him, too?’ and Kiante says, ‘Yeah,’ and he hollers out there and he says, ‘Quinton, there’s two of them,’ ” Judy said. “The little boys’ moms and grandparents are just sitting in the stands and the little boy’s just yelling real loud, then they played the rest of the day.”
Kiante said he and his brothers now communicate a couple of times a week and see each other during open gyms.
The Enis connection
Sports run deep in the Enis family.
Dwight graduated from Mississinawa Valley in Union City, Ohio, as the basketball program’s all-time leader in rebounding. He earned a scholarship to play at Louisburg Junior College in North Carolina, but he was homesick and returned home.
Ami had an opportunity to play basketball at Xavier University, and Dwight is the uncle of former NFL players Rick Enis and Curtis Enis, as well as Wilbert Brown, who won a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots.
The Palladium-Item’s 2015 Myyon A. Barnes Athlete of the Year, Nate Trawick, a sophomore-to-be playing football for Miami University, is Enis’ cousin.
Dwight grew up a few blocks east of the Indiana-Ohio state line, and Mississinawa Valley didn’t offer football at the time. He said he wishes he could’ve moved to the Indiana side for the opportunity to play football with Union City High School.
“(I)t was fun. I just wish … I lived about three blocks from the Ohio line; I wish I would’ve played football. My brother, his dad, I could’ve lived with them, but I wasn’t thinking. I was a pretty big fella. I could’ve probably played football for Union City.”
Curtis Enis was the Ohio Mr. Football winner in 1993 and went on to play at Penn State University and professionally with the Chicago Bears. Rick Enis, now deceased, played at Indiana University and had an opportunity with the Denver Broncos before becoming a professional boxer.
“It’s funny. We played against each other on Friday nights or Saturday nights, and the gym would be full,” Dwight said. “I’d be playing for the Mississinawa side, and they’d be playing for Union City. It was like a big rivalry, but when we met on the court, it was either, you bump my head, I’m going to bump yours. Then when we got off the court, it was, ‘Hey you did all right.’ ”
The Mr. Football candidate
Winchester football coach Mike Jones always has been a Kiante fan. But when he learned about Kiante’s background, Jones learned to appreciate his efforts much more.
When Kiante decided to focus on basketball as a freshman, Jones sought him out at his home and asked him to consider playing football.
It was Jones’ first year as Winchester’s coach, and the Falcons were coming off a 1-9 season.
Enis didn’t join the team until his sophomore year. It was during that season that Kiante and Jones shared a personal moment.
“We’re in the weight room when he’s a sophomore. He comes to me and says, ‘Coach, my dad just called me,’ ” Jones said. “And I said, ‘Well, call him back.’ He says, ‘I’ve never talked to him before.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘I’ve never talked to him before. He just left me a voicemail.’ I said, ‘Oh, no.’ So that was about four hours that he and I spent. We actually sat on the sideline of the football field and talked forever.
“From that moment forward, I took it upon myself to make sure that he had every opportunity that he deserved because he had been cheated out of some earlier.”
Judy remembers Kiante often talking about how much he looked forward to being able to play football. She wasn’t so sure she’d let him. She was worried he’d get hurt.
“They’ll have to catch me first,” she remembers Kiante saying when she warned about him getting tackled.
More often than not, it’s been hard to catch him.
“I remember the first time you played in middle school and Titus Edwards’ dad turned around and said, ‘Are you sure this boy has never played football before?’ and I said, ‘No, not even really out in the yard,’ ” Judy said. “He really hadn’t touched a football.”
Growing up, other sports had Kiante’s attention.
Kiante said he went through a stretch where he’d hit a home run in every one of his baseball games, but his dream was always to play NBA basketball.
He sacrificed a lot of his childhood to attend camps and travel around the state for the Amateur Athletic Union.
Entering his freshman year at Winchester, Kiante wanted no part of that 1-9 football team.
The Falcons went 6-4 in Jones’ first year, and after some convincing from Dwight, Kiante was on the football field for his sophomore year.
His first game, against South Adams, he had an interception that he said could have won the game had he not run down the wrong sideline into traffic.
Then against Hagerstown in Week 3, Enis broke out with an interception return for a touchdown, a rushing score and 154 rushing yards, as the Falcons shared the TEC championship with Northeastern.
His junior year, Kiante was close to breaking the state’s rushing record with 3,189 yards.
The monster numbers set his team up for a senior year to remember.
Despite focusing on Kiante, opposing teams couldn’t stop him, and he was often used as a decoy.
Winchester won the program’s first sectional championship and just had the regional championship slip away.
Kiante finished fifth overall in the IndyStar Mr. Football voting and holds school records for most rushing yards in a game (466), season (3,189) and career (7,014); most rushing attempts in a season (299) and career (714); most touchdowns in a game (seven), season (2014) and career (108); most interceptions in a season (six) and career (15); and the state record for longest touchdown from scrimmage with his 99-yard score against Noblesville Home School in 2014.
A different feeling
Following in his grandfather’s footsteps meant everything to Kiante.
What was supposed to be temporary became a permanent home for the two brothers.
“I just made sure that I worked all the time and I said, ‘They aren’t going to do without. I’m going to make sure they never do without anything,’” Dwight said. “My wife, she’s been good, when I wasn’t home. She made sure she took them to their basketball camps, made sure they were at their appointments, their doctor’s appointments and all this. They never missed that. I don’t know, that’s just the way I looked at it. I worked, and I made sure she raised him.”
It’s going to be different at the home in Saratoga starting in June, as Kiante moves to Bloomington.
Boo will play football and basketball Friday nights, and the three will hustle to get to Bloomington — or wherever IU plays on the road — to watch Kiante on Saturdays.
“I can totally understand how someone can adopt a child and love them just like their own, because Boo and Kiante have no blood of mine running through them, but I couldn’t love them any more if I had given birth to them,” Judy said.
“I could not love them any more. They’re my babies.”
AT A GLANCE
• What: Indiana High School Athletic Association boys track and field regionals.
• When/where: Thursday at Franklin and North Central high schools.
• Cost: $7.
• Area athletes at Franklin: Jawuan Claiborne, Jerrell Deloney, Cory Powell, Sid Sagna, Jermayne Stanley and Ryan Yates of Richmond; Jack Brenneke and Jacob Stamm of Seton Catholic; Gabe Beatty and Dakota Green of Northeastern; Keeton Adams, Mason Bledsoe, Alec Hicks, Jevon Osborne, Dakota Roach, Holden Robinson, Kaleb Slagle and Logan Tuttle of Hagerstown; Justin Beasley, Isaac Bentley, Evan Couser, Derek Dearth, Dakota Elleman, Luke Haas, Ryan Hensley, Joshua Nixon, Dylan Poe and Breyden Wicker of Union County; Seth Woolwine of Centerville; and Bryant Hilbert of Lincoln.
• Area athletes at North Central: Camden Abernathy, Kiante Enis and John Thornburg of Winchester.
• Next: Top three finishers in all individual events, plus any individual meeting the 3 Participant Standard in the regional finals of their event qualify for state finals on June 4 at Robert C. Haugh Track & Field Complex, Indiana University, Bloomington.