Many high school football programs around the state have built traditions over the years.
Some teams are associated with rich histories of success-filled seasons, others by offensive and defensive schemes that have become cornerstones of their identity.
At Marysville Getchell High School, a tradition has been built at quarterback that’s almost as longstanding as the program itself.
The Chargers are in their ninth season and are entering their seventh straight season with a quarterback with the last name Koellmer.
Taylor Koellmer became the Chargers’ starting quarterback in 2013, his younger brother, Caleb, followed and the youngest brother, Josiah, took over the reins in 2019 to become the third brother to start at quarterback for Marysville Getchell.
But before Taylor, Caleb and Josiah pulled the green and gold Marysville Getchell football jerseys over their shoulder pads on Friday nights, the brothers spent countless hours in their backyard playing football, basketball and competing against each other in any activity they could.
“We’ve always been together,” Josiah, a junior, said. “We’ve been tight, and sports has always been our number one.”
Being the youngest of three, Josiah had to deal with the typical growing pains of being the little brother in a competitive, athletic family.
“It wasn’t that competitive (early on) because they were so much better than me,” Josiah said with a laugh.
Even though it wasn’t easy to hang with his brothers at first, Josiah progressed as he got older and started catching up to his siblings in size and ability. His brothers took notice.
“He would always get hit once or something like that and cry (when he was younger),” Taylor said. “And then watching him change and grow up and get older to being a varsity quarterback, it’s pretty cool to see him change like that from being a little guy.”
“I think that helped him a lot because he’s used to always playing against the bigger guy,” Caleb said, “and he’s always stepped up his game.”
Josiah wasn’t always just competing with his brothers, though. He was also watching and learning from the sidelines when he became the team’s ball boy when he was 10 years old.
“About my second year, I started learning our plays and I knew what the (play call) signs were,” Josiah said. “I memorized those. I started really early, so that helped a lot. It was really fun to watch. I got to watch every hit that my brothers took, and I was scared every time. That’s where it all started. I started picking up and learning the game from there.”
As Josiah watched and learned the game, he had plenty of examples from his older brothers.
Taylor made his first start for Marysville Getchell as a sophomore. He led the Chargers to their second straight .500 campaign in 2013 and was again the starter in 2014. He entered 2015 as the Chargers’ third-year starter at quarterback, but a foot injury sidelined Taylor and thrust Caleb into the starting role three games into his freshman season.
“It was really interesting,” Caleb said of his first varsity experience. “It was a big step up going from eighth grade to getting thrown into varsity football.”
Caleb remained the starter throughout the rest of his high school career. He missed a start as a sophomore, which Marysville Getchell coach Davis Lura said was the only game a Koellmer hasn’t started since 2013. A concussion during Caleb’s senior year led to Josiah’s first varsity minutes.
When Taylor was injured, he made the transition to being a varsity starter for Caleb smoother by giving his younger brother advice along the way.
“He helped so much,” Caleb said. “Going from a youth football playbook into a high school varsity football team and a full playbook is incredibly different.”
Now, Caleb and Taylor use their experiences on the field to help out Josiah as he navigates his first varsity season as a starter.
Caleb and Taylor attend Grand Canyon University in Phoenix and watch the film of Josiah’s games after they’re uploaded to Hudl on Friday nights.
“I like giving him feedback,” Taylor said. “I like letting him know what he did good, what he can work on. He’s improved a lot in these last two games, and it’s really fun to watch.”
Josiah said he received long messages with advice from his brothers before his first start this season.
Lura said having the older brothers there for advice is like having a couple of coaches at home for Josiah.
“It’s an easy transition when I can say, ‘Hey, go ask your brother what to do on the play when you’re at home,’” Lura said. “… It’s been a pleasure to coach each one of them. They’re good kids, great students, three-sport athletes and they come from a good family. They’re gonna be successful in life.”
It’s all been a unique experience for the Koellmer’s dad, Jeff, who played quarterback at South Sheboygan High School in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
“It’s fun to watch and I can share my experiences with them a little more as to if they were playing different positions,” he said.
As Josiah transitions into his role this season, his brothers will be eager to see how things develop and will certainly be there for advice along the way.
“Whether he wins or loses, I just love watching him because you can always tell he’s just giving it his best shot,” Caleb said. “He’s so athletic and can always make plays. It’s so fun to watch.”