WAYCROSS, Georgia — Up in Ware County, the old cliché rings true: a football team is a family.
“Some of those coaches – even though I had a great dad – you would see them as father figures," Head Coach Franklin Stephens explained. "Some other coaches you may see them as that big brother or uncle.”
“Everybody on this team, if they're younger than me, I call them my little brother. If they’re older than me, I call them my big brother," junior Ladedric Castellanos added.
But this year, the Gators are truly "all in the family."
Freshman Thomas Castellanos won the starting quarterback job this spring. Injuries to the running back position moved brother Ladedric from linebacker to running back -- right next to his little brother.
The two have played together since they were young, but never with Thomas at quarterback and Ladedric at running back. As several Gators were quick to note, even if Thomas is calling the plays, Ladedric hasn't been afraid to put his little brother in his place.
“Ay it’s a big brother thing. It’s a pride thing," Ladedric laughed at a recent practice. "Even when we’re at the house, when he's doing [something] wrong, I get on him. When he’s doing something right, I build him up. When he’s down, I lift him up. ‘Cause that’s my little brother.”
But the Castellanos' football family tree goes far beyond the Gators' backfield. Thomas and Ladedric are two of 11 children -- several of whom previously played for the Gators in a variety of sports. Atlanta Falcons' running back Devonta Freeman is also a cousin.
It’s that extended family, though – that “football family” – that’s been a game-changer for Thomas and Ladedric.
“With our father being deceased, we’re the mans of the household," Ladedric explained. "Coach Stevens is like a second father to us. Even off the field. Grades, school, whenever we’re down he lifts us up.”
Because in Ware County “football” is family.