If you mention the last name Snead around campus at Central College, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find someone who knows one of the four siblings that are all currently attending the small liberal arts college in Pella, Iowa.
The school’s website describes its residential campus as a place where students create a community of scholars that feels like “family.” The Snead siblings from Altoona, Iowa, make that statement tough to argue — all four of Larry and Janice Snead’s children play an integral role in student life on campus, which located about a 30-minute drive from their hometown.
Twenty-three-year-old Nate is a fifth-year senior and an All-Iowa Conference quarterback on Central’s football team, while senior Jeremy (21) is his brother’s favorite target as a two-time all-conference wide receiver. Patsy (19) is a sophomore, and devotes her time to mission and service work through the college campus ministries program. And, the youngest of the group, Sara (18), is a freshman outside hitter on the school’s volleyball team.
While they are all in the same place, each of the four has taken their own path to Central.
After graduating from Southeast Polk High School five years ago, Nate began his collegiate career at Drake. But after his freshman year, Nate decided to transfer to Central, which boasts a rich football tradition, including 30 Iowa Conference titles and 20 NCAA Division III playoff appearances.
“I really wanted a chance to play for a conference championship or even a national championship,” Nate said.
At the same time Nate was transferring, Jeremy was getting ready to head off to college. When he found out Nate was going to Central, it was an easy choice for the younger brother.
“I wanted to play with Nate another four years once I knew he was coming here,” Jeremy said. “I knew what a great quarterback he was and what a great leader and winner he was. It was kind of a no-brainer. We do have a special connection.”
While the two played sports together during their childhood, it was when Jeremy made the high school varsity team as a junior that things really started clicking.
“I knew I could depend on him to make plays,” Nate said. “He’s a playmaker. It worked out really well, and I wanted to continue that when I went to college. It was great we both ended up at Central.
“One of the greatest things about Jeremy is that he is a fierce competitor and he had to be his whole life because he’s been playing against competition older and bigger than he was.”
The connection on the field flourished when the brothers started at Central. In 2009 and 2010, Jeremy racked up over 1,000 receiving yards and caught 16 TD passes as he and Nate garnered first-team All-Iowa Conference honors in both seasons. This year, they are off to another strong start. In Central’s first six contests, Nate has passed for 11 touchdowns with Jeremy on the receiving end of five of the scores.
“I always looked up to Nate when we were growing and up do whatever he was doing,” Jeremy said. “I always wanted to tag along and hang out with him and his friends when they were playing sports. I think it made me better having to keep up with him.”
While Patsy played sports in high school, it was mission work and the friends she met through those organizations that attracted her to Central. But despite not being a collegiate athlete, she attends her fair share of football games and volleyball matches, and is especially close to sister Sara.
But, not surprisingly, Sara was not expected to be the fourth Snead at Central, and did not want to be known as Nate and Jeremy and Patsy’s little sister on the campus of 1,600 students.
“I wanted to make a name for myself. I looked at other schools, but I just kept coming back to Central,” Sara said. “It’s nice having them all here. My sister and I are really close and I get to see her a lot. It is a feeling of home because I had been here so much. I didn’t feel scared coming to Central.”
The elder Snead siblings have set a stellar example for the youngest of the group, who has had a productive rookie season on the court, helping the Dutch to a 20-11 record this year.
“Having them as such great role models always made me want to try harder,” Sara said. “I didn’t want to let a lot of people down. They are very humble and I see the way they carry themselves. They have gotten a lot of praise in high school and college, and they never let it get to them. I like to watch them.”
Even Jeremy, a typical big brother that teases his sisters when he runs into them on campus, is enjoying seeing more of the family.
“It’s nice to see Patsy and Sara more,” Jeremy said. “I never really got to see Sara play sports while we were growing up, so now I have that chance to watch her play volleyball.”
Just a short drive from the Central campus, Larry and Janice Snead are taking full advantage of having all the kids at one school. The Sneads will catch a football home game before heading off to a volleyball match, or vice versa, and then the whole group, including Nate’s wife Kelsey, will grab a bite to eat for dinner – something the entire family did not get to do very often in the past.
“We didn’t really have time to sit down and [have] dinner, because everyone had something different going on,” Jeremy said. “It was busy, but we had fun.”
Larry and Janice – both former student-athletes at Dubuque College – not only taught their children about the benefits of athletics like self-discipline, sacrifice and building relationships — they also supported them every step of the way.
“They were always running around,” Nate said. “The awesome thing was that they never missed a game. They gave us all equal time. It was really hard, but they did a great job of juggling it all and being there for us. They always made us a priority.”
As Nate and Jeremy prepare to graduate in the next few months, they realize this is an once-in-a-lifetime chance to have each of their siblings in the same place at the same time.
“We’ll never have this experience again – to be at the same school with all your siblings,” Nate said. “It will be a whole different world soon. I know I’ll miss it, and I know someday I’ll tell stories about it.”