If you’re ever wandering around the Chadron State campus, there’s a great probability you will run into a member of the McLain family. They’re everywhere, especially on the football practice field.

Joe and Jake McLain are both members of the football coaching staff – Joe is a volunteer assistant and Jake is a graduate assistant, who both work with the team’s receivers – and their youngest brother, Jonn, is the starting quarterback at the Division II school in Nebraska.

“They are very close in age and all look alike,” Chadron State head coach Jay Long said. “The hardest thing about it is saying the right name.” 

But Long – a Chadron alum in his first year as the Eagles’ head coach – is happy to have them all as a part of the program.

“When I heard Joe McLain was interested in the job, I definitely wanted to get him hired because he was an Eagle and the all-time winningest quarterback in Chadron State history,” Long said. “His knowledge and expertise and leadership were all things on wanted on my staff.”

They are very close in age and all look alike. The hardest thing about it is saying the right name.
-- Jay Long

Joe played for the Eagles from 2005 to 2008, compiling a 38-4 record in four years as the starting quarterback. He led CSC to the Division II playoffs three consecutive years with three of his losses occurring in the postseason. In 2008, he was voted the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Player of the Year. 

Jake graduated from Mayville State (NAIA) in North Dakota last spring after three seasons as the football team’s starting quarterback. He also played baseball where he earned all-conference three times and the 2011 Dakota Athletic Conference Senior Player of the Year. Jake joined the Chadron State football program as a graduate assistant because it was the perfect fit for him.

“I knew I wanted to get into coaching, and I also wanted to make all of my younger brother’s games,” Jake said. 

“[Jake’s] a terrific competitor and a ton of energy,” Long said.

Jonn is the McLain currently suiting up in the No. 13 jersey (it was also Joe’s number at Chadron). While he is in his fourth year with the team, Jonn redshirted in 2009 and then had a medical redshirt last season, so he is only a sophomore eligibility-wise. In 2010, he completed 62.7 percent of his passes – the third-best in Chadron history – and is trying to make his own name for himself with the Eagles with his brothers by his side. 

“He’s trying to establish his legacy here at Chadron State,” Long said. “As a first year coach, I’m glad I have a quarterback like him leading our team.”

The three brothers also have three other siblings. The eldest is Josh, who is Chadron’s biggest football fan; their sister Jamie is a freshman on Chadron’s women’s basketball team; and the youngest Jasmine is a senior volleyball player at Chadron High School. 

Their parents, Jerry and Tina, were both athletes at Mayville State and raised their family in Chadron – a small town with a population of less than 6,000.

“There was always someone around to fun with … there were pick-up games all the time,” Joe said. “During the fall and in the snow, we were playing football out in the yard. And then there was basketball and baseball. We’d see stuff on TV and try it out in the yard. It’s kind of how we learned to play, and I think has contributed to some of our successes later in life.”

“We played quite a bit of football in the backyard growing up and that’s where I think the competiveness developed,” Jonn said.

Those backyard games grew into a local family football dynasty. For a span of six-and-a-half seasons at Chadron High School, there was a McLain at starting quarterback. 

“We’re similar, but not exactly the same,” Joe said. “I was more of an athlete playing quarterback, Jonn is more of a pure quarterback and Jake was right in the middle.”

Now, with Joe and Jake finished with their collegiate playing careers, the spotlight is on Jonn, but football is still a family affair.

Team Stats National Leaders
Jonn McClain's career game by game
Division II Schedule

“It’s a lot of fun having all of us a part of the program,” Joe said. “This works out pretty well. There are a lot of things offensively that I can see and talk to him about.  The communication is good. I can convey stuff to him and also to the wide receivers about what’s going through the quarterback’s head.”

“There have been many times when Jonn is telling me to tell [the receivers] stuff,” Jake said. “He’s kind of a coach, too. It’s all cool because we all suggest things to each other.”

It’s not the first time the three have worked for one common goal. The brothers have coached the local American Legion baseball team together for the last three years, which has helped develop their working relationship.

During game day, the McClain brothers are all business on the football field, even in pressure-filled situations. 

“They are all very professional and handle the situation very well,” Long said.

In CSC’s game against Colorado Mesa on Sept. 15, Jonn had a productive game, connecting on 30 of 40 passes for 324 yards and four touchdowns in the Eagles’ 41-30 victory. But even when he threw an interception returned 75 yards for a touchdown, Jonn’s brothers were steady and supportive.

“I see what he’s going through right now, and [tell him] to keep his head up and that I love him,” Jake said.

Jonn is open to his brothers’ advice on running the offense, but he most of all he enjoys sharing the experience with them.

“Being around them and being around a sport we all love is the best part,” Jonn said.

Chadron State hosts Western State on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET as the Eagles -- fittingly -- celebrate “Family Day.”