Etheridge Twins to Reunite at JMU

By: Nate Sulham Email
By: Nate Sulham Email

Growing up, Ryan and Hunter Etheridge did all the "twin things" twins do.

"We literally went everywhere together, played sports with each other all the time. We used to dress alike but we don't do that anymore," Hunter laughed.

"Yeah always on the same team, slept in the same room until like 5th grade or so. That was the big breakup," Ryan added.

Changing rooms may have been the "big breakup" at the time, but a much bigger breakup happened a bit later down the road.

After their sophomore year at Clayton High School in their native Clayton, North Carolina, the twins decided to change schools in an effort to advance their football careers.

They set their sights on central Virginia, at nearby Woodberry Forest. However the school only had room for one of the brothers -- Hunter.

"It was really difficult, especially making my decision to come here. I knew we weren't going to be together and that was something I'd have to sacrifice to come here," Hunter explained.

"Yeah it was tough, it was hard on us, it was hard on our parents," Ryan added. "Just to be separated in general was hard on us."

Rather than leave his older brother behind, Hunter began to search out schools close to Woodberry that would give Ryan an opportunity to shine.

Ryan found that home at Blue Ridge, where he was an all-VISAA selection at linebacker and helped guide the Barons to a Division II state title in his first season.

"He came in right away and wanted to be here, wanted to be with us and just kept working hard," former Blue Ridge coach Orlando Patterson said.

Meanwhile, Hunter took over as quarterback his junior season and just this past year, led the Tigers to the Prep League Championship.

"That he could come in (as a junior) and literally, from the first day, be a leader to the guys -- I've never seen that before here," Woodberry head coach Clint Alexander said.

While they were busy with their own responsibilities, both on the field and off, being just 30 miles apart afforded the brothers the opportunity to see each other on off weekends and watch each other play when the other wasn't.

"We'd see each other on off weekends or it would line up where one would play a Friday and the other a Saturday, so it worked out," Ryan said.

"I was actually there for the (Blue Ridge) State Championship so that was a pretty cool moment," Hunter added.

With their high school careers coming to a close, the brothers began looking at colleges that would give them the opportunity for a reunion.

"We wanted to be together again. Like we have been our whole lives. And that's what we wanted to try to do," Hunter said.

"Any college, whatever, we were just trying to put it together where we could be together," Ryan added.

They had looked into North Carolina State, their home-town school growing up. The Wolfpack wanted Hunter as a walk-on but couldn't find a fit for Ryan.

Meanwhile, James Madison was interested in Ryan -- but didn't have a spot for Hunter.

The two attended JMU's spring game this past season and met with new head coach Everett Withers and his staff. After a positive meeting, Hunter's father sent the Dukes a highlight tape of Hunter's play. That, along with a recent transfer at the quarterback position, earned Hunter a preferred walk-on opportunity with his brother, meaning the Etheridge's will share a field again this fall.

"I couldn't have written this any better," Hunter said. "Being with my brother again, going to a school that I would like to be at and that I'll have fun at."

"This is how we wanted it to work out," Ryan added. "We wanted it to go play at the highest level together that we possibly could. So it definitely worked out for us."

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