By Paul Meadors | Sports Editor
Let me introduce you to D.J. and Dusty Schramm, identical twins, future Division I college football players with a stone-cold sense of duty on the field, built like monster trucks with calf muscles that have their own calf muscles.
They both own 4.0 GPAs, are respectful as any 18-year-olds you’ll ever find, stand 6-foot-1, 220 pounds each and a West Point recruiter once said to Clovis West coach George Petrissans after a visit: “You have two killers right there.”
But what if I told you that these Clovis West seniors can transform from beasts on the field to outdoorsmen quicker than you can say “tackle,” in love with the tranquil peacefulness that lakes and rivers and streams can bring.
Underneath the helmets and pads there’s more than meets the eye to D.J. and Dusty Schramm – yes – they are assassins on the field who deliver bone-crushing hits, but even big time football players need to find some peace and quiet away with good friends.
ESCAPES TO THE WATER
Sitting under a shaded tree before a recent football practice, there’s little doubt the twins can discuss football all day long but when the talk turns to fishing, their eyes light up like kids on Christmas morning.
It’s not uncommon for them to call up their classmates and teammates – Adrian Martinez, Rodney Wright and Nick Coleman – hop into a vehicle at 6 a.m. and head to Black Hawk Lake, Woodward Park or a local pond for some serenity and quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of the high school grind.
And leave those cell phones behind.
In fact, they’ve been known to do this before a summer morning football practice, up at 5 a.m., grab the gear and go by 6 a.m., back in Fresno before gathering around in stretching circle.
This tight-knit group didn’t lose a football game during their Kastner Intermediate School days. In fact, they crushed everyone and most of that class has moved up the ranks, ready to make a charge to a Tri-River Athletic Conference title.
There’s nothing like team camaraderie on and off the field. However, competition certainly runs through the veins in these five. You don’t get to this point in life without thriving on competition. When asked who the better fisherman is, D.J. loudly proclaims it’s him, “I catch the most and the biggest.”
Dusty vehemently disagrees: “Nope, it’s me!”
It’s at this moment Adrian Martinez, the national level quarterback recruit who’s verbally committed to Tennessee walks by on his way to practice, so I ask him who the better fisherman is: “Dusty” he says.
OK, but to make it totally fair so I go to a majority vote and ask Coleman and Wright; “D.J.” they both say because, “He watches YouTube videos on how to become a better fisherman.”
On the other hand, there are more sides to the Schramm Brothers than intense football players and fishing – there is no hint of arrogance among them, no eagerness to impress, no “I gotta get mine” mentality that seems to permeate athletes these days. For example, when asked about their most memorable football play so far in their careers, they both say celebrating a teammate who made a great play. Now, that’s a teammate.
“They bring an intensity and toughness that is unique on our team,” said Clovis West head football coach George Petrissans. “There’s a leadership factor and a confidence they bring that everything’s going to be OK, we are here to do our job.”
There is a humorous side to them as well – they both love the show “Impractical Jokers,” a show where a group of four lifelong friends play practical jokes on each other and put themselves in some wild and awkward social situations.
They both have a no excuses mantra – D.J. played with a broken wrist last year and Dusty had a cracked vertebrae he suffered in summer baseball last year and kept on playing until he couldn’t – he only missed four weeks and three games.
“We definitely play with chips on our shoulders – it gives us an edge,” said D.J. “You can be nice off the field but once you step on the field it’s all business.”
Brother echoes the thought.
“On the field it’s all business,” Dusty said. “We got to flip that switch and go beast mode.”
Their opponents sure feel the pain – D.J. last year was named the TRAC Defensive Player of the Year and registered 112 tackles and seven sacks. Dusty, despite missing those three games had 116 tackles and 8 sacks.
Identical twins, almost identical numbers.
D.J. has verbally committed to Boise State among many Division I offers and Dusty holds offers from San Jose State, UNLV, Montana State, Air Force, Army and Idaho State.
LEAVING UTAH AND A LIFE CHANGING MOMENT
The twins were born into a football family and had all the makings of future football stars. They donned the pads at age 8 and haven’t looked back.
They also have massive pedigree as their father, Dave, was a college quarterback and a successful college coach. They were born in San Diego, and Dave’s job as a college coach took them to Texas, Montana, Utah and finally, Fresno.
In fact, the family has a love for all things related to the water and the outdoors – the beach, lakes, rivers. Their mother, Bonnie, grew up fishing and has fond memories with the boys and fishing at Frenchtown Pond State Park in Montana. That’s where their love of fishing started.
In 2012, Dave Schramm left a successful coaching job at the University of Utah in January to become the offensive coordinator at Fresno State, and it was then that Fresno State had quarterback Derek Carr at the helm for two years. Under Schramm in 2013, the Bulldogs ranked first in the nation in passing at 394.8 yards per game, third in the FBS in total offense at 547.8 and sixth in scoring at 43.4 – all school records.
At first it was tough for the twins to leave Utah and their love of the snow, snowboarding and sledding and the place they called home for seven years from 2005-2012. Before The University of Utah football games, the boys would go on the field throwing the ball around, dressed in Utes gear from head to toe. They loved Utah so much when asked where they were from they would say Utah, even though they were born in California.
Uprooting a family is never easy, and can be an anxious time for not only kids but parents as well. New house, new neighborhood, new job, new school, new friends.
But it took an act of kindness, an unexpected and most welcome gesture that put the boys and their mom at ease, a moment that to this day brings tears to the eyes of Bonnie.
As loving moms do, Bonnie wanted to check out the boys’ new school and hopefully meet their new teacher, Brian Salomonson, at Liberty School. As she walked into the school office, the secretary warmly and enthusiastically greeted them, “You must be the Schramm boys,” then proceeded to walk them to their new class where they would start the following week.
But when they arrived, the class was nowhere to be found so they waited with the secretary by the door – but what they waited for they could never have imagined.
Then here they came around the corner – the group of sixth grade kids no doubt – perhaps, hopefully, fingers crossed there were some new friends among them. And when they got closer the most unexpected thing happened – they surrounded the boys in a circle and literally welcomed them with open arms, D.J. and Dusty in the middle, boys shaking their hands, giving them hi-fives, girls gathered around for good measure.
One boy extended his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Cole Simas.” They would become fast friends, even to this day playing varsity baseball together.
“I knew when that happened that we were going to be OK,” said Bonnie. “I was happy – we were welcomed with open arms.”
After that, everything clicked, their new world was going to be just fine. That year they also met Adrian Martinez playing Cal Ripken baseball at River Park Little League and didn’t know he played football until practice started at Kastner: “Hey, you play football too?,” they said. Naturally, the three have been best friends since.
And how cool is this – Derek Carr used to come over to the house and play NCAA Football on the boys’ Playstation back in the day and would routinely beat them soundly. Not too many people can say they used to play video games with one of the NFL’s biggest stars of today.
Regarding their father, it’s clearly evident he has had a huge impact on his son’s lives – both on and off the field.
When I mention their dad’s influence, they can’t stop talking about how much he means to them, talking over each other as if they can’t get out the words fast enough.
DJ: “He’s sacrificed so much for me and my brother as well as our mom. I look up to them so much – they are my biggest role models.”
Dusty: “I don’t think I could sum it up or one or two sentences.”
“We ask for his help because he’s such a great coach. We watched him coach all these great players every week during practices and games. He’s definitely helped in developing us as football players and helping us get to where were are at right now.”
And today finds them at the beginning of their senior year of high school at Clovis West, where they’ve played side by side on the football field since a helmet could fit them, cracking skulls, kicking tail, and taking names. They are a duo to be reckoned with for sure, perhaps the best one-two linebacking punch in the Valley.
And the Golden Eagles have some unfinished business to attend to this season. They’ve been knocked out of the playoffs the last two years by Bullard in the quarterfinals and Central last season in overtime in the semifinals, a gut-punch 34-28 loss, D.J. mentioning those games have left a bad taste in his mouth.
Unfinished business, to be sure.
“I’m going to enjoy playing one more season with guys I’ve been playing with since my 7th grade year and hopefully win a Valley championship,” said D.J. “If we can make that happen it will be the greatest feeling in the world.”