'All in': East Ridge football players work now with hopes of fun Fridays in falls
The evening before the 4th of July holiday, as high school campuses sat quiet and deserted during the mandated no-contact period between coaches and athletes, a group of five football players got together at East Ridge High School.
Though you could envision tumbleweeds rolling over the field and could hear the sound of crickets, the boys ran sprints, perfected plays and executed drills at East Ridge High School with one thing in mind - greatness.
One of the boys was one of the most touted quarterbacks in the state, East Ridge's starting QB Seth Green, who is entering his sophomore year, but already has Division I scholarship offers to the University of Minnesota and Louisville. While a lot of other athletes were already in vacation mode, Green, along with his two younger brothers - 10-year old twins Bryson and Blaine - and fellow soon-to-be sophomores Alex Johnson and Kjetil Cline were putting in some extra work in preparation for this fall.
The boys said they do the extra training at East Ridge "every day." Many other players have joined them over the course of the summer, including fellow sophomores Dominik and Marcus London, senior receiver Xavier Cole, senior running back Nick Leach and seniors J.C. Hassenauer and George Behr. Hassenauer, a center, and Behr, a tight end, recently committed to play college football at Alabama and Rutgers, respectively.
On Wednesday, the Green brothers' dad, Bryan - who played football at the University of Minnesota under current Raptors' head coach Mike Pendino - supervised the boys from the sidelines.
"East Ridge's motto this year is 'all in'," Bryan Green said. "To be 'all in' you need to come up here and work, when others may not be working, to get better. If you want to be good at your craft and in school you have to continuously practice until it becomes second nature. That means sometimes making sacrifices when others are lying on the couch watching TV or playing Xbox."
Heading into the 2013-14 season, Seth Green - who has grown to 6-feet, 2-inches tall and is up to 190 pounds - isn't resting on his laurels after a stellar freshman campaign.
"It takes even more than this to be great," he said. "It takes a lot of work in the classroom and getting with your receivers and practicing, so not only you, but your whole team gets better as well."
Seth Green, Johnson and Cline have played together and against each other since the second grade.
"This sort of makes you feel that much better when you win," Seth Green said. "Some teams just start to get together in high school, but for us, we've been together a lot longer and we feel like we've been working for it that much longer. There's definitely a feeling of family."
The hard work is already paying off. The trio recently earned invitations to the prestigious Football University Top Gun combine in Ohio in July.
Johnson, a running back and strong safety, said he doesn't mind the extra work and enjoyed spending the time with his friends on the football field.
"We're working every day, trying to get better," he said. "You have to put in the work that other people aren't doing. It's fun getting our teammates out here and working out together."
Cline, a wide receiver and defensive back, is the son of Woodbury's Coralea and Keita Cline, who were both standout track and field athletes at the University of Minnesota and qualified for the Olympics for the British Virgin Islands.
"I'm just trying to do my part to make this a better team," Ktjetil Cline said. "You know that other people are working hard too. But, when you're teammates are all working hard, you know you can lean on them and they know they can lean on you. That's what makes a great team."
Green's younger brothers, Bryson and Blaine, who are about to go into fifth grade, have been playing football since kindergarten. The brothers play up a grade - at the sixth grade tackle level - for their dad in the East Ridge Athletic Association.
Both play defensive back, running back and receiver.
"What I'm trying to teach them the most is how much work you have to put in and what sacrifices you have to make to be successful," Seth Green said. "Also, what works and what doesn't."
Seth said he gets to watch all of his brothers' games on Saturdays.
"It's a lot of fun," he said. "I love to watch football at any age. If they keep working hard they should be pretty good."
Bryan Green said he came from Alabama, where he said "football is the equivalency of hockey here in Minnesota" and "a year-round process." That mentality is something he said he's trying to instill in his kids.
"We had fall football, then an offseason program, then spring a spring football season where we'd have 1,000 people at our spring game even though we just played each other," Bryan Green said. "Then, in summer, we had workouts. Football was kind of the livelihood.
"They're putting in the work on these days so they can have fun on Friday nights."