A fervent competition is brewing beneath the surface on the Maryland football team. It will likely be settled behind the scenes, away from the cameras and notebooks, but with all the intensity and dedication of a postseason game. It’s unfinished business right now, but one of utter importance to the four players involved.
Which set of brothers is the fastest?
“I already told them we’re fastest,” Levern Jacobs said.
“Oh yeah,” Jarrett Ross said. “We’re faster.”
“You’ve got to ask them,” Brandon Ross said. “They’re the one ducking us.”
Someday, maybe soon in a brief moment of respite this August, the Jacobs and Ross brothers will line up for a relay race. Brandon Ross, the running back, and Jarrett Ross, the cornerback, vs. Levern and Taivon Jacobs, the wide receivers. They joke about it constantly, all in jest, because no matter who wins, they know they’re all still family.
Brandon and Levern are both sophomores, anticipated contributors on this season’s roster. Brandon could start at running back and, at the very worst, will split carries with Albert Reid. Levern, who caught seven passes for 50 yards last season over 11 games, could wind up being Maryland’s fourth receiver, and is currently behind Stefon Diggs at the “Y” on the depth chart.
As for their respective younger brothers, Taivon was among the team’s highest-touted recruits this year, reneging on his oral commitment to Ohio State and remaining close to home. His daughter is growing up and talking more these days – Bailey’s first word was “Dad” – and family pulled Taivon closer to his Suitland home. He says Uncle Levern makes the tough decisions, disciplining his daughter when Taivon’s love softens his heart. “Yeah he’s a softie,” Levern said. “Towards her anyway.”
After undergoing knee surgery on Jan. 11 to repair a torn ACL, Taivon opened preseason camp doing individual rehabilitation work, sprinting sideline to sideline, progress that has impressed Coach Randy Edsall.
Back when Taivon was supposed to become a Buckeye, Levern would often rib him about the upcoming Maryland-Ohio State Big Ten battles in future seasons. Now?
“We’re together now,” Levern said.
“It’s pretty much everyone’s a Maryland Terp, we all represent my family, we pretty much do it all together,” Taivon said. “We’ve got a great bond. Me and my brother, we also have a great bond. Sometimes we separate ourselves, do things on our own, become a better player, but ultimately we’re still together.”
Jarrett, the program’s first class of 2013 commit, played with Brandon in high school at the Charter School of Wilmington (Del.). The Ross brothers grew up in a competitive household, where they tossed the football around in their backyard and were raised by parents who preached academics, accountability and respect.
“Athletic wise, they taught us to compete all the time,” said Jarrett, who snagged an interception during Monday’s practice, his first with the Terps. “Like I said, not only would it be great, but go beyond great. If you’re working out, don’t satisfy for one rep, go for two. Don’t satisfy for two, go for three. Our parents taught us a lot, but your life is how you make it. People will try to talk down to you, do this, do that, but if you stay focused and do tunnel vision, the sky’s the limit for you.”
Brandon and Jarrett never played the same position in high school, so the brothers rarely butted heads. Rather than sibling rivalry, they had fraternal support.
“We’re with each other, not against each other,” Brandon said.
On National Signing Day, as Levern supported Taivon in the Suitland High School library and Jarrett inked his own letter in Delaware, Brandon gave his brother a call and said, “Welcome to the family.”
The familial dynamic gets played up in every locker room across the country, football or otherwise. With the Terps, for these four, it’s actually real.
Except there’s one matter still left unfinished.
“You tell them I say, ‘When do you want to race?’ ” Brandon said. “It’s up to them.”