Justin and Jason Greenway use sibling rivalry to their advantage as they excel for KernelsAsk Justin and Jason Greenway what motivates them, and you will get similar answers from the not-so-similar twin brothers.
By: Travis Mester, The Daily Republic
Ask Justin and Jason Greenway what motivates them, and you will get similar answers from the not-so-similar twin brothers.
“I definitely don’t want him to outdo me in anything,” Justin said. “We get after each other a little bit. … Not wanting to let him beat me helps motivate me.”
“People are competitive with brothers and sisters anyway,” Jason said. “When we’re the same age and in the same sports, it gives you a little more push.”
Whatever is motivating the Greenways this fall has helped the Mitchell High School football program thrive during their senior season. The Kernels (8-2) are the fifth seed in the Class 11AA playoffs and face fourth-seeded Sioux Falls Washington in a state quarterfinal game at 8 p.m. Monday at Howard Wood Stadium in Sioux Falls.
Justin was a Class 11AA all-state pick at defensive back last year. He has excelled in a number of roles this season despite dealing with a torn ACL in his right knee all year long. Justin has 495 yards rushing and seven touchdowns to go along with 232 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
Jason, who was born two minutes prior to Justin on April 6, 1993, has rushed for 1,407 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He was an all-Eastern South Dakota Conference pick last year as a running back and, with the help of an improved offensive line, has gotten even better this year.
The brothers, who still share a bedroom at the Doug and Janet Greenway household, are the primary focus of every team’s game plan entering a contest with Mitchell. It has been that way since they were sophomores.
Few of those game plans have stopped the duo from lighting up scoreboards across the state, though.
“I think it’s just known that they have the speed and their power,” Mitchell football coach Kent VanOverschelde said. “But the number one thing that separates them is their competitive level that they bring to the field. That’s the common thing between them.”
Justin is 5-foot-9, 195 pounds and wears number 8. Jason is 5-10, 175 and wears number 24. Mitchell’s coaching staff has had a hard time getting them off the field. The two are so productive in the special teams department — Jason has five returns for touchdowns and Justin has two — that getting a breather for one of the twins rarely is in the Kernels’ best interest. Jason also does the punting for Mitchell and has averaged about 32 yards per punt this season.
“On every single play, I’m thinking I’m going to score a touchdown,” said Justin, who said return touchdowns are his favorite. “That started early on when I was playing as a kid; knowing that I had the possibility to score on every play was exciting and I wanted to. It’s certainly become the goal for both of us, I’d say.”
‘That could have been me’
The twins’ similarities on the football field are not lost on the 18-year-olds themselves.
One of Jason’s returns for touchdown came in the Kernels’ biggest win of the season — a 50-49 win over Sioux Falls Lincoln. Jason nabbed the ball out of the air on a kickoff with about 2 minutes to play and took it back for a score. When asked if he remembered any play that his brother has made this season, Justin pointed to that late score against the Patriots.
“The biggest thing I remember is the Lincoln game this year when (Jason) jumped in front of me for that kick return and ran it back,” said Justin, who returned his first-ever punt return for touchdown this season at Rapid City Central. “I didn’t have a problem with it because he ran it back, but I did think, ‘That could have been me.’ ”
Most teams would prefer to kick to anyone not named Greenway on a punt or kickoff this season. But that plan has not always worked.
Jason, who scored his first receiving touchdown of the season in Mitchell’s first-round playoff win over Aberdeen Central on Tuesday at Joe Quintal Field, said Justin’s biggest strength on the field may not even be on the offensive side of the ball.
“He can kick field goals way better than me and, I guess, a little bit in man coverage,” Jason said of Justin’s advantages on the field. “I do all right, but it’s hard being short. When I look for the ball, I stop running. He doesn’t do so bad at that.”
What is Jason’s best attribute between the white lines, according to his brother?
“He’s kind of like a ping-pong ball,” Justin said of Jason. “He just bounces off guys that don’t wrap up and keeps going. I don’t want to say I’m a one-move guy, but more so than he is.”
At a game earlier this season at Aberdeen Central, the Kernels had some extra spectators in the stands. Aberdeen Roncalli hosted Milbank in the first game of what was a doubleheader on Sept. 9 at Swisher Field. Some Milbank fans stayed following their team’s game to see what all the fuss was about regarding Mitchell’s team — the Greenways in particular.
“It’s kind of cool to think that people would stay and watch us play,” Jason said. “It’s nice that people have a positive attitude about our team. We haven’t been the best in the past years, but I’m glad to see people take notice of us instead of just the Sioux Falls schools all the time.”
Making winning an expectation
Doug Greenway makes it no secret.
He and his wife Janet were lucky to have their oldest son, Cory.
“Thank goodness we raised an older child before we took on twins,” Doug Greenway said.
Cory is 21 years old and is a student at South Dakota State University in Brookings.
Jason and Justin have kept Janet and Doug a busy couple for the past four years. With wrestling, track and field, and football events to worry about, there aren’t many free nights during the school year.
“The thing that’s nice for us is that having the same schedule has made it easier for us to follow them,” Doug Greenway said. “We see our friends that have multiple kids in different sports at the same time and that’s tough. It makes our travel much easier.”
Doug said his twins both were interested in playing hockey when they were growing up, but he directed them toward wrestling instead.
“They both ended up liking (wrestling) and were good at it,” Doug said.
Jason won the Class A state title at 152 pounds last year, while Justin finished third at 171 pounds his junior season.
The two have been key cogs in a senior class that has gotten Mitchell to its first quarterfinal football playoff game since 2006. The success is something both Greenways credit to their coaching staff’s summertime dedication.
“(Defensive coordinator Arend) Kuyper has always been in the weight room since I started going there in the seventh grade,” Justin said. “He expects perfection and everyone listens to him. No one wants to let him down.”
But, like all siblings, the two have not always been on the same side, Doug Greenway said.
“Early on, it got a little rough,” Doug said. “We had a few knock down, drag outs with them until we got control. That hasn’t happened in a while, though.”
That fire has not died completely in either of the brothers.
“I think what has gotten us where we are has been getting in a routine for working out when sports aren’t going on,” said Jason, who is about 200 yards away from setting the Mitchell career-rushing yards record. “We lifted at about 6:15 (a.m.) four days a week this summer. When you’re lifting, some people just kind of walk around … you have to keep working hard while you’re in there.”
Their parents are not always the most boisterous fans in the Mitchell crowd when one of their sons takes a dash toward the end zone.
And neither of them wants to be.
“We’ve always said, if you’re good at something, people will notice,” Doug Greenway said. “Whether it’s work or school or sports, that’s not something you need to go tell people.
“I can’t take the credit for them wanting to win at everything. If they have a fault, it’s that they aren’t patient when they don’t see that same thing in others.”
Both Justin and Jason broke their right leg when they were freshmen. Justin suffered the injury in December and Jason during a summer wrestling camp.
“Same leg, same spot,” Doug Greenway said of the injuries. “We thought that was a little weird.”
Since then, Justin had ankle surgery his sophomore year and now is dealing with an ACL tear that will have him missing his senior season of wrestling to recover from surgery.
But take away a past leg injury and their similar athletic talent and one will find two very different high schoolers.
Except for their favorite television show — they both are avid fans of “Two And A Half Men,” the pre- or post-Charlie Sheen era.
“I like them both,” Justin said. “I’m thinking Ashton Kutcher has done a good job, too.”
Justin’s favorite musical artist is blues musician John Mayer, while Jason sides with rock band Breaking Benjamin. Justin prefers football video games, while Jason would rather take his turn at Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
A favorite football movie? Jason said he has watched “Friday Night Lights” twice in a row before. Justin will take “The Replacements.”
“I just like the underdog football story,” Justin said of the film from 2000 starring Keanu Reeves. “I kind of feel like that’s been us for the past few years.”
Both are Iowa Hawkeye fans and cheer for the Minnesota Vikings, who have their first cousin Chad Greenway as one of their linebackers. Justin, however, still holds his childhood-favorite Miami Dolphins as his favorite NFL team.
Justin said golfing is his main hobby outside of his high school sports, while both find time for hunting and fishing on the weekends.
Whether playing a college football game on Xbox 360, racing to the fridge or lifting weights, the Greenways’ competitive fire has taken no offseason for the past three years.
“They don’t put that record board up in the weight room for nothing,” Justin said.
In addition to their offensive skills, Jason has added three interceptions and Justin has two from their cornerback positions.
Both twins mentioned that they have not returned an interception for a touchdown in their careers, though, and they’ll be competing for that first “pick-six” Monday night.
“I’ve never gotten one of those,” Jason said of an interception return for touchdown. “I think that’d be the coolest way to score.”