The article below originally appeared on the MercuryNews.com and is being reprinted with permission.
Dru Brown and Joey Wood are a package deal.
Dubbed the “Los Gatos boys” by their football coach at College of San Mateo, the true freshmen have been teammates since freshman year in high school. Wood, a 5-foot-11, 225-pound bruising running back, made varsity as a sophomore and ran for over 1,000 yards. He made his mark as a junior by rushing for 1,964 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Brown, a 6-foot, 195-pound quarterback, made varsity as a junior. He took the reins for good senior year and completed 67 percent of his passes to the tune of 2,301 yards and 22 touchdowns, plus five more on the ground.
Now they’re wreaking havoc at CSM as true freshmen.
“It’s a lot more like a job that you come to love than it is playing high school sport,” Wood said. “We’re monitored all day long, making sure we’re doing everything the right way and making sure that we’re on track to transfer and be a good choice for other colleges to take us.”
Brown made a recruiting trip to City College of San Francisco in the winter before meeting with CSM coach Bret Pollack. Both programs have a track record for transferring players to four-year programs, with former Bulldogs in Pac-12, Big 12 and SEC programs.
That was important for both, with Brown choosing to enroll in January at CSM so he could attend practices in order to gain an edge in the quarterback competition.
“The spring schedule was tough because I would end class around 2 and then we had practice,” Brown said. “It took some getting used to not getting home until 8 o’clock at night or whatever because of the traffic, but it was definitely worth it.”
Pollack said: “He’s a freshman, but he’s not a freshman because he put in the effort. He has aspirations as a qualifier of trying to transfer after one year, and I told him if that’s the case you gotta get here now. And he’s been here every day since.”
Wood had plans to walk on at San Jose State. But his quarterback wouldn’t take no for an answer and convinced him to at least meet with Pollack in the spring.
“I just let him know how my experience was at CSM and how it’s just been a positive influence for me as a person as well as a player,” Brown said. “The ultimate decision was his to make, but I definitely tried to persuade him because, I mean, there’s no one else I would rather hand the ball off to.”
“He kept preaching it to me and got me interested in it,” Wood said. “I went on one visit and my mom and I decided it was the right place for me and it would be the right decision. So about a week later, I called San Jose State and told them that I was going to give the recruiting deal another shot.”
Pollack did his homework before welcoming Wood into the program.
“One of my first questions to Dru was, ‘Is he a guy I want?’ ” he said. “And Dru knows what I’m talking about, is he a good character kid that wants to work hard and not gonna cause trouble. And he said, ‘No coach, I think he’ll benefit from the program and I think the program will benefit from him.’ And then Joey and his mom and I met, and he’s here.”
The 18-year-olds have made an immediate impact for the Bulldogs, who are ranked No. 2 in the state after a 3-0 start.
Brown has taken every snap under center through three games and seems to be getting more comfortable. He accounted for five touchdowns in the home opener, then on Saturday against 2013 state champion Butte (which produced Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers), he threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s very savvy,” Pollack said. “And so it helps him, it’s slow out there for him. He spends a lot of time with me in learning what I’m trying to do, so we talk like we’re talking now. And so it’s very simple, it’s very easy. And I think that helps when he gets out there, he has an understanding that a lot of kids will never have. It’s just a gift that he has.”
Brown, who wasn’t sacked in the 56-27 win over Butte, also ran it five times for 42 yards. That’s a sign he’s adjusting to CSM’s patented triple-option offense.
“At Los Gatos, 50 percent of the time I took the snap and handed it off to Joey,” Brown said. “But in this offense, it’s a decision-making process post snap, so the triple option is based off reading someone on the defense. If so-and-so goes here, then I pull the ball and I keep, so it’s definitely different because I never ran the ball in my career, like ever. Going from a pro-style, I-back set to a triple-option attack where I’m carrying the ball or throwing the ball every single snap, I actually like it a lot. It definitely gives me a chance to make play and have a huge impact in the game.”
Of course, Wood prefers it when his quarterbacks hand off.
“I know the kind of back I am is a power back who can take as many carries as you give him in a game and will run everything downhill and run hard,” said Wood, who gained 145 yards on 17 carries against Butte and found the end zone three times. “It definitely took a couple of games to really get into the groove and then this last Saturday was my breakout game. To me it almost feels the same. I’m still running hard and breaking tackles like I used to, it’s just a little bit tighter holes and a little bit of quicker guys.”
“He’s earning his way in there through practice,” Pollack said. “I had a talk with the guys this week, they gotta understand that this is based on performance. It’s not based on where you come from or if I like you or not or if you buy me a ham sandwich. It has to do with performance, and in our society these days that’s like talking a different language at times.”
The Los Gatos boys carpool to CSM every day. Wood will leave his house at 7:30 a.m. and won’t return home until 12 hours later. And it’s inevitable to spend most of that time next to his quarterback.
“I think we have the brotherhood aspect of football down, let’s just say that,” Brown said. “We definitely bicker our fair share, but I think that just comes with the best friend slash brother part of it.”
Staying close to home also played a factor in becoming Bulldogs.
“I remember our first week, both our parents came up to Siskiyous, which is like I don’t even know how long that is,” Brown said. “They made the drive up the morning of, so that just goes to tell you the people that we’re surrounded by and always supported us.”
“Football has been my life,” Wood said. “And playing Division I football has been my dream since I was 6. So my family has been there every step of the way, and they come to every game if they can if it’s not too far. And it definitely helps a lot when they’re willing to let you walk away from a four-year (college) to take another shot at a junior college, the fact they support that says a lot.”
It’s possible Brown and Wood are one-year rentals at CSM, with the ability to transfer into a four-year program — same as Julian Edelman a decade ago.
The question remains, will they still come as a package deal at the next level?
“That would be pretty awesome,” Wood said. “I would definitely not be opposed to playing with Dru again. He’s like my brother.”