'2,000 words': The Janke twins stand as proud portrait of SDSU football program

"They're a picture (of what SDSU is). A picture's worth 1,000 words, so that's 2,000 words," John Stiegelmeier said. “Small Town, S.D., they’re from a farm, their work ethic, good students."

South Dakota State wide receivers Jadon Janke (left) and Jaxon Janke (right) pose with fans for a photo at SDSU's NCAA Division I football national championship celebration on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, at the Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex in Brookings.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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BROOKINGS — You’d be hard pressed to have seen either of the Janke brothers standing alone after South Dakota State football's welcome-home celebration Tuesday.

Fans of all ages flocked to the twins for pictures, autographs or even just to say hello to the fifth-year receivers.

And the two of them loved every second of it.

“I never get sick of it,” Jaxon Janke said. “I'm actually a student-teacher and a lot of these kids that I see are my students that I had at Brookings Middle School. … It’s cool to go into class and they all say, ‘Mr. Janke, good game.’ I’m never going to get used to it. It's very cool and touching to my heart that these kids think that I'm a hero to them. And I'll never get sick of it.”

Some fans could tell the two apart, while some had to ask who was who or take a shot in the dark as they were introducing themselves. But if not for the zero on Jaxon’s jersey, telling the two Madison, South Dakota, natives apart on or off the field would be no small task.


At Madison High School, the twins won three consecutive Class 11A state championships from 2015-17 and on Jan. 8, 2023, they played a key role in bringing the first national championship to SDSU, combining for eight catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-21 win over North Dakota State.

More SDSU national championship coverage
“The national championship puts into the spotlight everything that’s right about college athletics and everything that’s right about being a Jackrabbit,” SDSU Athletic Director Justin Sell said.

“It's probably never going to set in completely,” Jaxon Janke said Tuesday about winning a national championship. “It was the best day in all of our lives, for sure. I won a few state titles in high school, but that does not compare in the slightest to being a national champion.”

And it appeared as though that was going to be the last time the duo donned a Jackrabbit uniform.

“If you would have asked me in the beginning of the season, I would have said this would be my last year, and I'm going on to pursue my dream with the NFL,” Jadon Janke said, and his brother agreed.

South Dakota State's Jadon Janke breaks into the NDSU secondary against NDSU during the NCAA FCS title game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.
David Samson/The Forum

But after talking with scouts around the NFL, they changed their mind.

Around the time of the Jacks’ first playoff game against Delaware, the Jankes decided it was in both of their best interests to come back to school for another year and develop. And after becoming national champions, they announced it.

They’ve done nearly everything together their whole lives, and pursuing another national championship next year will be yet another thing they do with one another. But the decision to come back was a more personal one. In hopes of getting to the NFL, though, they trained together, training with Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen and former Augustana and current Vikings fullback C.J. Ham over the summer in Woodbury, Minnesota. They worked out at an ETS Performance gym before heading to a local high school to run routes.

On top of the work they put in with Thielen, he told the twins to not worry about getting much bigger but to focus elsewhere.


“Just have great technique in everything we do. Be the fastest in and out of our breaks and just go out there and have a dog mentality like he's had,” Jadon Janke said about what he learned from Thielen. “He was an underdog his whole life and kind of like we are from a small school in South Dakota.”

The work they put in during the offseason showed up on the field for the twins. Jadon Janke set new career highs in receptions (51) and receiving yards (774), while Jaxon Janke hauled in a career-high nine touchdowns — two of which came during the national championship game. He also led the Jackrabbits in catches (60) and yards (857).

Jaxon Janke compared his game to both Thielen and Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp — smaller receivers who came from smaller schools, with Kupp starring at Football Championship Subdivision school Eastern Washington. Jadon Janke said he takes bits and pieces from different things he sees online or while watching football as opposed to modeling his game after one player.

Their return next season not only is beneficial for them in their hopes of getting to the NFL, but it bolsters a Jacks’ roster that isn’t losing much from its championship season this year. And when Stiegelmeier got the news that he’d have the twins in the blue and yellow for another year, there weren’t many people happier than him.

South Dakota State's Jaxon Janke hauls in a fourth quarter touchdown reception against North Dakota State's Courtney Eubanks during the NCAA FCS title game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.
David Samson/The Forum

“What is the word that says you’re the happiest you can be?” he said. “... I think they're a picture (of what SDSU is as a program). A picture's worth 1,000 words, so that's 2,000 words.

“Small Town, South Dakota, they’re from a farm, their work ethic, good students, all that stuff. And those are the kinds of guys we get when we recruit a South Dakotan.”

Zech Lambert is a sports reporter for the Mitchell Republic. He graduated from Penn State University in May 2022 and began at the Mitchell Republic in July 2022. He can be reached at or on Twitter @Zech_Lambert.
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