CEDAR RAPIDS – No one was happier than Jordan Atwater when younger brother, Mark, decided two years ago to join him and their father, Larry, at Coe College.
That didn’t mean they ever wanted to live together on campus or anything. There is love there and all that, but there also are limits.
“He lives in the dorms, and I live in the apartments,” Jordan Atwater said during Saturday’s Kohawk Football Media Day at Clark Field. “I don’t think we could ever be roommates.”
“I have no comment,” added Mark Atwater, with a grin.
Coe is coming off a perfect regular season, its first outright Iowa Conference championship and a three-point loss to Elmhurst in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs that still haunts everyone. If there’s to be anything close to a repeat of one of the best seasons in school history, you’ll probably need to see a whole lot of Atwater this fall.
Make that Atwaters: all three of them, really. Coe has been picked as IIAC favorite in a preseason poll of coaches.
“It’s a little stressful,” admitted wife-mom-super fan Sue Atwater, as she watched team photos being snapped. ”When the whole family is in like this … Everybody you care about is all invested. But they’re having a great time.”
Larry Atwater is Coe’s defensive coordinator and has been at the school as an assistant coach for 24 years. Jordan is a starting senior safety for the Kohawks, Mark a sophomore who hopes to be the starting quarterback.
Coe Coach Steve Staker said if the season began Saturday, Mark Atwater would probably get the nod over junior Tyler Sylvester and sophomore Josh Rekers, but the competition is extremely tight.
“It’s fun having them both here,” said Larry Atwater. “If it works out for both of them (this season), that’d be awesome. Just working with Jordan on defense is really cool because he’s with me in every meeting, he’s with me in every drill. With Mark, it’s different because in practice, with him on offense, I can never really be happy for him because I’m on the other side of the ball. His success is our failure, I guess. So that’s kind of one that’s a tougher one.”
Mark Atwater had other college opportunities after an all-state senior season at Linn-Mar High School but ultimately decided Coe was the right fit for him. Of course, it helped to have a couple members of his family helping recruit him every day.
“We definitely talked about it a lot, as a family and just him and I sometimes,” Jordan Atwater said. “I always wanted him to come to Coe. But if he had an opportunity somewhere else, and he did have that, I never would have faulted him for going somewhere else. If he had chosen to walk on at UNI or Iowa, I know he would have been successful. But he chose to come here and have this opportunity, and that’s a pretty cool thing. It’s honestly awesome to have him here with me and my dad.”
Mark Atwater played a little last season at QB before suffering a concussion on a nasty hit in a game, but this would be a whole other ballgame for the entire family, so to speak, if he’s chosen starter.
“It is a dream that you have, and I had,” he said. “I knew when I visited here, this was going to be my choice. It’s an experience you just can’t pass up. Last year, yeah, that was cool. But I played such a limited role, then getting hurt and sitting out so long … This year, hopefully being a starter is going to be a whole different dynamic. It’ll feel like we’re just that much closer. We’re all putting so much into this right now. I feel bad for my mom because she has to put up with all that. But it’s just fun. It’s fun to be out there with them every day.”
Mom and dad agree their sons have different personalities.
“Jordan has always been a little more quiet and reserved,” Sue Atwater said. “Mark has always been more intense. Either he’s really, really happy or really, really mad. He’s very competitive. Everybody always says that Mark looks more like Larry, and Jordan looks more like me, but they got their competitiveness from their mom. Larry and Jordan’s personalities are probably closer together, and mine and Mark’s are closer together.”
Jordan and Mark pull for each other, for sure, but that doesn’t mean they want sibling success to come at their expense. Larry laughed when recalling a story from practice last week in which Mark was taunting his brother as he chased him down field during a drill.
“There are sometimes where I feel like I can read what he’s doing,” Jordan said. ”I know what he thinks, I know a lot about our offense. That’s another thing. But, yeah, there are sometimes I think I know where he’s going with the ball.”
“I refuse to throw a pick to number 11 during any team (practice),” Mark said, looking at Jordan. “I have thrown to him in individuals, just kind of in a one-on-one (situation). But I would throw it into the ground or throw it to someone else before I would throw it to him. I will not have that.”
COE KOHAWKS AT A GLANCE
Head Coach - Steve Staker (sixth season at Coe, 39-15 overall record)
2012 Record - 10-1, 7-0 outright Iowa Conference champion
Starters Returning/Lost - 3/8 offense, 4/7 defense, 2/0 special teams
Letterwinners Returning/Lost - 36/21
Key Offensive Returnees – RB Carvin Thompson (senior), RB Gage Mohs (senior), K Wes Anderson (senior), OL Nathan Yelton (senior all-American candidate), OL Jacob Seaton (senior), TE-P Chase Cooling (senior), WR Keaton Juergens (senior)
Key Defensive Returnees - CB Antoine Allen-Jackson (senior), S Jordan Atwater (senior), LB Dylan Youel (senior), LB Gaetano Tarantino (junior), DL Tevin Bell (senior), DL Mitch Montgomery (senior).
Iowa Conference Titles (Last) - 4 (2012)
NCAA Playoff Appearances (Last/Result) - 8 (2012; lost to Elmhurst, 27-24, in first round)
Coach’s Comment: “How it shakes out, I don’t know. I think we’ve got a good nucleus of offensive guys coming back, especially on the offensive line. That’s where I think needs to be the story, if you’re going to have success on offense … I told the guys ‘You were picked fifth last season, and you were upset about that. It motivated you. Now you’re picked first, and that’s a whole different deal. How are you going to respond to that?’”
2013 Schedule: September 7 - at Monmouth, 1 p.m.; September 14 - Cornell, 1 p.m.; September 21 - Washington (Mo.), 1 p.m.; October 5 – at Buena Vista, 1 p.m.; October 12 - at Loras, 1 p.m.; Oct. 19 - Dubuque, 1 p.m.; Oct. 26 - Simpson, 1 p.m.; November 2 – at Wartburg, 1 p.m.; November 9 – Luther, 1 p.m.; November 16 - at Central, 1 p.m.
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