LOGAN — A key factor for any good football team is the feeling of family in the locker room, a brotherhood among teammates, supporting each other and striving for the same goals. It’s one of the main reasons that USU has landed recruits like quarterback Chuckie Keeton, among others.
For some Utah State players, that feeling of brotherhood on the team is literal. The Aggies list four sets of brothers on the roster: twins Kyle and Kevin Whimpey on the offensive line; Nick Vigil and his older brother Zach at linebacker; kickers Jake and Josh Thompson; and offensive lineman Jamie Markosian and his younger brother Nick, a freshman wide receiver.
The family ties don’t just exist on the field. Head coach Matt Wells hired his brother Luke away from Iowa State to be a co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach at Utah State.
“It means a lot, not a lot of people get an opportunity to play with their brother,” redshirt freshman Nick Vigil said.
As twins, the Whimpey brothers have been playing football together all their lives. They starred side-by-side at Lone Peak High, attended Idaho State together, and following separate two-year LDS Church missions both transferred to Utah State.
For the rest of the brothers, playing college football with each other is an opportunity they weren’t sure they would experience. For senior Jamie Markosian and his freshman brother Nick, the chance to play youth and high school football together never really materialized.
“He was always behind me in high school so I never got to play with him,” Jamie said. “It’s cool to have him out here with me now. I’m glad that I can be here with him to help him along.”
The Wells brothers had long talked about being able to stand on the same sideline together. When the two visited each other during the offseason or bumped into each other on the recruiting roads of the Midwest, they’d often discuss the possibility.
The dream became a reality when Matt Wells was handed the reins of the Utah State program this past winter. Luke had spent the previous four years coaching at Iowa State and was happy in Ames, but ultimately the chance to join his brother and coach at an emerging program with a high-powered offense was enough motivation to make the move.
“Personally it was a no-brainer, but Utah State being a great program had a lot to do with it,” Luke Wells said. “If Utah State wasn’t in a great situation, I don’t know that I would have done it.”
As children, almost all of the brothers were competitive with each other, but now that competitiveness has turned to their opponents and the focus is centered on helping each other improve.
“(Zach’s) helped me out a lot, technique wise, watching film,” Nick Vigil said about his older brother. “He’s been there doing extra work helping me with things that a lot of other guys won’t get.”
The level of camaraderie only deepens when trying to decide which brothers are best within the pairs. Players who are usually ultra-competitive quickly turn soft when asked about their kin.
Nick Vigil defers to his older brother, who finished second on the team with 105 tackles last season. Zach meanwhile thinks that his brother is the better athlete and after he learns a few more tricks of the trade he will easily surpass him. Jamie Markosian gives himself the edge based on four years in the program, but believes his little brother Nick will be far better by the time he’s done.
“I think it helps,” Luke Wells said about having family bonds on the field. “The guys with brothers are out there on the field busting their tails, and I don’t know if it would be any different if the other guy wasn’t here. But the memories and the experiences you have, that’s a neat deal.”
On the field, every player in an Aggie uniform is a brother, united in a common cause. For a special few however, that brotherhood is carried home.
Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter @DesNewsKraig.
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