By Brad Fauber - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Evan and Ian Griffin have always been close.
The brothers from Annandale work summer jobs together, lift weights together, hang out with the same friends and even share a bedroom at home. But there is one thing that the pair has never done -- compete together on a football field.
The Griffin brothers, currently members of the Shenandoah University football team, participated on the varsity football program at Annandale during their high school years, but the opportunity to share the field never arose. Ian, a self-proclaimed late bloomer, was steadily entrenched as the backup to his older brother.
All of that is about to change, as Evan and Ian are both set to start at opposite ends of the Hornets' defensive line when Shenandoah kicks off its 2012 season at Stevenson on Saturday.
"In high school [Ian] just developed a lot later than I did and I never got to play with him," said Evan Griffin, who is a junior this season and is a year older than Ian. "I got to watch him play his senior year. It was pretty cool watching him play and I always wondered what it would be like to get to play with him. It's really cool that we get to play together this year, so we'll get to see how it goes and how we complement each other."
It's not as if playing together will be an entirely new experience -- the duo has had numerous opportunities to share the field during practice at both the high school and college level.
Those experiences, coupled with years and years of trying to best each other in various activities, has bred a competitive nature in Evan and Ian Griffin that can only come from a special brotherly bond.
"The competition's good. It pushes me. I can't explain it, but if he's doing really well, it motivates me to do well," Ian Griffin said. "If I see him beating me in a sprint, I want to beat him in a sprint. But then at the same time, it's kind of cool to work together."
The Griffin brothers acknowledged that it's not always about seeing who can out-do the other. The pair actually gets along quite well.
"We like to work together more than we go at it," Ian Griffin said. "We worked together all summer -- worked out together three times a week with the same trainer. It was nice."
Evan and Ian said that their competitive nature carries from the football field into the weight room, where they push each other even harder.
It helps that the brothers are nearly identical in size -- Evan is listed at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, Ian 6-foot-2, 245 -- and both play defensive end.
"We can do all of the same weights, so it's not like a receiver training with an offensive lineman," Evan Griffin said. "And it's the same position, so we can just work on everything and compare to each other."
On the practice field, the Griffin brothers often use their knowledge of each other's playing style to plan out their respective routes to rushing the quarterback. They communicate before the snap what move each will make, and they make it a priority to force the quarterback into one or the other.
Playing college football together didn't always seem like a realistic possibility for Evan and Ian Griffin. Ian said that he didn't even consider playing college ball until he went to SU to watch some games during Evan's freshman season and thought, "This could be fun."
Ian Griffin, who said didn't start a game at Annandale until his senior year of high school, now finds himself in a starting role as a sophomore with the Hornets.
"It means a lot. Being able to start as a sophomore is amazing," said Ian Griffin. "All of the hard work has finally paid off."
Evan and Ian said they feel that their competitiveness on the field will make both men better football players, which will in turn make Shenandoah's defensive unit stronger.
The 2012 college football season will surely be one to remember for the Griffin brothers, but at the end of the day, competing side-by-side on the football field will be just another experience the pair gets to share.
"We've always been close. We always do everything together," Evan Griffin said. "We were raised pretty close. Football is just another thing that we do together."