All in the Family

The brothers Shoemaker energize Kenyon's football team

The best football players--and coaches--find a way to master the chaos that always threatens to engulf the gridiron. At Kenyon, two of the best are brothers: Carlin and Ian Shoemaker. Carlin, 21, labors between the yard markers and has emerged as one of the top wide receivers in the North Coast Athletic Conference, while Ian, 32, is the team's offensive coordinator and mastermind in the coaches' box.

The siblings have created thrills for fans while churning out record-setting numbers. Their brilliant Kenyon debut in 2003 was only a precursor to a 2004 campaign that included a College record of 3,920 yards of offense.

"Ian has a great knowledge of the game and his attention to detail is unsurpassed," says head coach Ted Stanley. "Carlin is a tough, tenacious competitor. He's a top playmaker and has the potential to be one of the best receivers to play at Kenyon. They always find some way to rise to the top. I don't know where we would be without them."

The Shoemakers are modest in their success and secure in the knowledge that they have achieved it without the ability to outrun or outmuscle opponents. Both are relatively small in stature, casual in character, not the types to intimidate. But growing up in Graham, Washington, with two other brothers thrust the pair into an environment of constant competition and a continual search for a decisive edge.

"We've always been extremely competitive," says Ian, who played football and baseball at Grinnell College. "It's made us mentally and physically sharper in our athletic careers and closer as siblings--athletics has and probably always will be the fiber of our family."

In fact, the Shoemakers have so tightly interlocked athletics and family that during Ian's senior year at Grinnell, the entire crew temporarily moved from Washington to Iowa. The Shoemaker parents, Donna and Ed, got to the witness their son's collegiate finale, while Carlin and the other brothers remained involved as bat boys and ball boys.

"Anyone else looking at that situation would think of it as bizarre, but that's how we are," Carlin explains. "If there is a way for us to be there for each other, we'll figure it out. We don't want to miss a beat."

Kinship and support aside, neither brother harbors any elaborate secrets of success. Ian's offensive schemes are a hodge-podge of favorite plays he's revamped to best fit his players' abilities. He uses extensive video editing to instruct and even has players program parts of his playbook into their PlayStation or Xbox video games.

Carlin, a 5'8", 185-pound junior, doesn't get fancy. He is straightforward and confident on the field. He thrives as the underdog and goes full tilt with intense and focused play through all four quarters.

"We will almost always be at a physical disadvantage, but we still go into a game with the approach that all things are equal, even if they are not. We'll look at an opponent and say that ability levels equal out and coaching-staff experience equals out," Ian explains. "So now, with that type of situation, it's our job to find an edge--what can we do to come out victorious."

The Shoemakers have the additional challenge of balancing their on- and off-the-field relationships. "We treat each other as professionals and are constantly aware of the delicate nature of our relationship on field," Ian said. "We purposely try to avoid any type of brotherly connection and steer clear of any preferential treatment. He's got to call me coach like everybody else, and to be honest, he probably gets a little more heat from me, along with higher expectations."

Ian has been Carlin's biggest fan, but for the sake of the team's well-being he represses his emotions when watching Carlin play.

"Sometimes it's touchy and sometimes it's difficult for us, but my teammates have always been great about it," Carlin added. "It's not a brother thing to them, but more of a respect for what we all, together, accomplish on the field."

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