By David Krueger Herald Writer
Twins Kyle and Brian O’Donnell are bringing some brotherly love to this week’s East-West All-Star game.
The O’Donnells have spent the past four years playing football together at Stanwood High School and will spend the next four together on the gridiron at Central Washington University.
In between for the brothers is this weekend’s East-West game in Moses Lake, which features some of the best players in the state of Washington going head-to-head.
“We’ve played together since we were in third grade,” Brian said. “We always have a good time. Especially on the football fields. There’s a lot of joking going around.”
The pair started on varsity for Stanwood together since their sophomore year. At 6-foot-3 Brian, a tight end, has a slight height advantage over his brother. Kyle, who maintains “I’m like 6-21/2 if anything,” plays on the offensive line.
“I’ve been playing O-line since my first year playing in 2003,” Kyle said. “Brian also played basketball so he lost a lot more fat than me and got skinnier. I was working out and getting stronger.”
The brothers were nominated for the East-West game at the end of the football season. Brian, a first team All-Wesco selection this year who also was on the basketball team at Stanwood, found out he made the West team from his dad in February before a basketball game.
Kyle, who was second team all-Wesco and was originally an alternate, found out later that he had made the team along with his brother.
“I think it’ll just be another great time together,” Kyle said. “Another memory. We’ve only got four more years together and then we’ll be off in the world without each other.”
Both Brian and Kyle hope to have a good time playing football in the practices leading up to the big East-West showdown on Friday. The two said they know a few of the players on their team — as well as the East team — will be going to Central next year as well.
The O’Donnells hope they can use their time in Moses Lake to meet some of their future teammates. And, of course, get a win.
“I hope it’s going to end in a win for the West side,” Kyle said. “But I also want to build some bonds with the guys. I know a couple kids on our team are going to Central and I’d like to get to know them.”
Said Brian: “It’s going to be different because it’s not going to be for Stanwood. But it’s going to be my last high school football game. I know it’s going to be a fun weekend. A fun time to play with the top guys. It’ll give me a good opportunity to see where I’m at compared to other guys in the state.”
Stanwood head coach Doug Trainor said there is no better example for the players on his football team — or students at Stanwood High School — to follow than the O’Donnell brothers.
“I just can’t say enough about them as kids. They’re just great dudes,” Trainor said. “Their work ethic is unmatched. They take care of business in the classroom and are just great football players. They’re model citizens at Stanwood High School.”
Trainor, who was in his first season as the head coach for the Spartans this year, said Kyle and Brian O’Donnell helped ease the coaching transition both for Trainor and the Spartans.
“It was great to have these guys because they’re such great communicators,” Trainor said. “I didn’t know all the guys. They did a great job of relaying information to the team for me. They’re leaders in every sense of the word.”
Since the O’Donnell’s senior football season at Stanwood ended with a 28-14 loss to Shorewood on Nov. 2, the duo said they were a little rusty at the start of camp for the East-West game. But they have been in the weight room and expect to be able to jump right back into the game.
And they haven’t just been sitting around during the offseason. The two have been practicing in their own, unique way.
“Madden counts,” Kyle said. “That’s about all we do in the offseason besides lifting. Occasionally we’ll play at the high school. It’s been awhile. I’m ready to get back in the swing of things.”
The O’Donnell’s selection to the East-West Game shows just how much respect the duo has earned. West head coach Tom Tri, who coaches Stanwood rival Lake Stevens, has seen Kyle and Brian in the regular season, as well as at a team camp at Central the last couple years.
“Both the kids are just tough, blue collar, hard-working players,” Tri said. “They’re the kind of kids that knock you on your butt, and then smile at ya and help pick you up after the whistle blows. They’re just good, hard football players.”
While openly admitting that he can’t tell them apart, Tri is thrilled to be able to coach the O’Donnells, instead of having to coach against them.
“I think I’ve called them both by the wrong name. They don’t even care. They just smile and nod their heads,” said Tri, who is the head coach for the first time after serving as an assistant coach in the 2008 game. “I’m happy they’re on my team. I like that they have a little toughness in them.”
The O’Donnells are two of the 36 guys Tri has for seven practices before the game. The West coach says that preparing for the game is a daunting task, but he’s excited for it and all the accompanying festivities.
The East-West game is a Friday and Tri heads to Central immediately after the game to join his Lake Stevens team for a four-day camp on Saturday at the school. The O’Donnells have a much longer break, with the twins not having to report to Central until Aug. 14.
The brothers are excited for college and the next chapter of their football careers.
“That’s been my dream since I was a little kid,” said Kyle, who is thinking of majoring in kinesiology or business management. “Ever since I was eight-years old, I looked up to everybody at the high school. Once I got to high school I was like, ‘I want to get to the next level and be the best I can.’ I’m really excited.”
Once they arrive at Central, the brothers will continue to do what they’ve always done: play football together.
While, they add, living under the same roof.
“It’s going to be interesting next year because we’re rooming together. That’ll be fun,” said Brian. “We fight sometimes. But we’re sticking together. It’ll be another opportunity to just play football with my brother.”