Northern State football team has seven sets of brothers on roster
A freshman's first day in fall football camp can be overwhelming.
There are new ways of doing drills. A higher tempo is expected. There is a ton of information to absorb. The comfort level has to be at an all-time low for players that were once stars in high school.
Wouldn't it be nice to have a close friend or a relative to help give some advice or a helping hand? If that's the case, its hard to image a school with a higher comfort level for new players than Northern State.
On the NSU roster, there are seven sets of brothers. Three of those sets of brothers are twins. When a question arises, almost 15 percent of the players on the roster can ask a relative for help.
It truly is a family affair for the Wolves, but it's not something that necessarily happened intentionally.
"We had a guy that graduated last year, Dallas Lopez from Chandler, Arizona, he has a brother on this team," said NSU Coach Tom Dosch. "His brother, Tanner, kind of recruited us a little bit. He was undersized coming out of high school and was injured so not a lot of people knew about him."
That is not a lot different from the recruitment of a pair of quarterback brothers, Christian and Colin McAlvain.
Christian is a contributor at quarterback and is from Windsor, California. When NSU was recruiting the junior college quarterback, the family made a request. After Christian committed, the family asked if it would it be possible for his freshman brother, Colin, to join as a walk on.
It's a win-win, or in this case a win-win-win, for everyone involved. Northern got a contributing quarterback, and both brothers get an added level of comfort playing a long way from home while the youngest improves his skills with the help of an older brother.
Other times, the requiting process has been more traditional.
The Barber brothers and Zemlicka brothers are all in the same class. They were two sets of twins in the same recruiting class but we recruited them each as individuals. They just all decided to come here," said Dosch.
"We just looked around at colleges not too close to home but close enough to go home on holidays," said junior cornerback Channing Barber. "We didn't know if we wanted to go together but we both got good scholarships and no one from our school was coming here so it was a good chance for a new start."
So what are the benefits of recruiting brothers?
According to Barber, the extra competition can help each achieve more, especially when they line up against each other on opposite sides of the ball.
It's a positive that we compete against each other and make each other better every day in practice," said Channing Barber. "Since he's [twin Zachery] a wide receiver I see him all the time."
"They [Barbers] go against each other." Dotsh said. "You get to see what's made them successful is that they are competitors. They don't care that they are twin brothers or not. They were going against each other doing a goal line drill. It was good versus good. Zach got the ball and was trying to get to the endzone and in an attempt to try and keep him out, he shoved Zach into a fence that's too close to our practice field. By pure luck one of our coaches had put a dummy there so no one was hurt, but it just shows how competitive they are."
Sometimes brothers end up playing the same position.
"The Zawatzke brothers both play outside linebacker. You can see the combination that 'hes my twin and I want him to do well but I also want to be ahead of him' because they want to play," said Dotch. "They were both on offense at one time. Taylor was a quarterback and Tyson was a wide receiver. We moved him over last fall. Taylor was a little ahead of him. It's close now."
There are also ways, probably only labeled as intangibles, where having a brother on the team helps.
"It's very helpful to have an older brother. We have a junior and his brother is a freshman and any time he needs something he comes over and asks. He knows someone that's been in the program and can help him," said Barber.
Having an older brother on the team also helps the coaches when it's time to recruit a younger brother.
"It goes back to quality of individuals," Dotch said. For the most part, super kids come from great families. If you have a guy that is a good person and worker doing what you're asking them to do you can make a pretty fair assumption that a brother will have some of the same qualities. You have a good idea of what you're going to get when you recruit that kid."
While there are no guarantees that having an older brother will guarantee that a coach can land the younger brother, at least there are no surprises when they do.
"There are no guarantees, but if you have some in your program then you hope their younger brother will know what to expect," Dotsh said. "Sometimes getting the inside scoop can help you and sometimes it can hurt you. The kids won't show up and be surprised about the expectations of work to be done. We lay it out on the table when we're recruiting.
"We're certainly worried about the cultural fit," he added. "It's a process. A player has to be able to hang in there and work for a few years to be able to play. What's the staying power like?"
If Northern State and the band of brothers is any indication, it's really good.
Brothers on the 2015 Northern State Roster:
Channing Barber – Zachery Barber (twins)
Lincoln Gruber – Logan Gruber
Brendon Hoellein – Landon Hoellein
Christian McAlvain – Colin McAlvain
Drew Peters – Derek Peters (twins)
Kyle Trefethren – Tyler Trefethren
Taylor Zemlicka – Tyson Zemlicka (twins)