BOGACZYK: For Applebys on Sept. 6, It's `Oh, Brother'
The Word on the Herd-Aug. 28, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- This is a story about two brothers, two universities, two sports, two teams ... and one day.
The odds of the situation occurring have to be like one of those 1-in-whatevers you see in lottery ticketland.
"How weird can this be?" wondered Marshall redshirt freshman golfer Jake Appleby.
"It's definitely a unique situation, no doubt," opined Purdue redshirt junior quarterback Austin Appleby. Meet the Appleby brothers, sons of Mike and Julia Appleby of North Canton, Ohio. There's one more in the family -- Butler the dog.
Austin will come to Huntington on Sept. 6 as the Boilermakers' starting QB, when Purdue becomes the first Big Ten Conference football team to visit Marshall. His younger brother, Jake, will be with his parents, among the crowd at Edwards Stadium, right?
See, the Herd men's golf season opens that same day with the opening round of the Golfweek Program Challenge in Pawleys Island, S.C. And if Jake qualifies in intrasquad competition next week, he'll be in his first collegiate tournament.
"It's a situation where Jacob is definitely torn, and understandably," older brother Austin said by phone from West Lafayette, Ind. "But I want him to do his very best to make that trip. I'm encouraging him to make it. I don't want him to feel he needs to be at the game.
"I hope, for his sake, he's not in the stadium."
It's obvious from talking to both Applebys that they have a grasp on more than just this one-day situation. It's also obvious they're closer than the 2 1/2 years of age that separates them. Each seems to be the other's biggest fan -- and not just because each stands 6 feet 5.
As for those aforementioned odds ... When the home-and-home Purdue-Marshall series was signed on Dec. 1, 2009, Austin was 16. Jake was 13. The Herd fell at Purdue, 51-41, in 2012.
The reworked deal to push back the second game of the series at Marshall to 2015 was signed June 10, 2011 -- just 19 days before Austin committed to the Boilers. Jake was 15 then.
"To get to go play at Marshall means a lot to me," said Austin, 22. "It's my brother's school. It's a great opportunity for our family, and if (Jake) is there, great ... but I want him to be with his team, playing golf."
Coach Matt Grobe's golf team holds its team qualifying for Pawleys Island over 54 holes starting Sunday. Two of the five spots are filled by Logan Lagodich and Alex Weiss, who played in the recent U.S. Amateur. That leaves three team berths. Two will be settled in qualifying, and Grobe will pick the fifth man.
What else? Well, the Golfweek event was added to the MU schedule via invitation. Usually, Marshall can't play there because the tourney conflicts with the Herd hosting the Joe Feaganes Marshall Invitational. This time, the Feaganes tourney is the following week, so it's off to Pawleys.
"The whole deal is exciting maybe because I don't get to get out and see Austin play as much as I'd like to because we have things going on here," said Jake, 19. "We're in season in the fall and spring and he's obviously playing in the fall.
"So, it was nice to hear the game would be on the schedule. Then, about a week after I found that out, Coach Grobe gives us a call and it's `Hey, got invited to new tournament, Pawleys Island, Myrtle Beach area, same weekend. We'll be playing the first round same day as the game.' Sure enough, it's kind of bad luck, but it will be good either way, watching it in the stands here or on my cellphone. Hopefully, we'll have an early tee time and I can get somewhere to a TV."
The game does make for a dilemma of sorts for the long-hitting Herd golfer.
"Don't get me in trouble here," Jake said, grinning. "Obviously, I'm a fan of the Herd. But you know, family is family and I'm Austin's biggest fan. He's my biggest fan and I'm going to be an Austin fan. I guess you could say I'm cheering on Appleby.
"It's a touchy situation here. I don't want to get my butt kicked on campus, but I'm an Austin fan."
Grobe saw evidence of that one day last fall when he and his son, Cameron, were hitting balls at Guyan Golf & Country Club. When they finished, they walked into the snack bar and there sat Appleby, who had been practicing.
"Jake was watching the Purdue game on TV," Grobe said. "So, we sat there with him and with probably about six minutes to go in the game, the cable goes out at Guyan. So here goes Jake, running up the hill to his car to get back on campus as fast as he can so he can see his brother finish the game.
"He went to a few games up there (at Purdue) last year. He and brother have great relationship. It's probably a tough weekend having both kids competing for their sports, and especially not very good for Jake. His very first college event could be on the road, when his brother comes to town."
Jake once was following in Austin's football footsteps. Their father, who is senior vice president of Life Professionals Inc. (a life insurance wholesale firm) played the backfield in college football at Louisville and then, after a transfer, at Akron, where he lettered in 1983 and `84.
Austin is a sales management major at Purdue. Jake is studying business management at Marshall. "My dad brought my brother and I both up through the programs and we were relatively good, stood out in our classes," Jake said of the duo that went on to Hoover High in North Canton. "Austin was always my role model; I tried to do everything he did, so I was also a quarterback and did just as well, if not better.
"But my eighth grade year was the last time I played. I picked up a golf club for the first time and that's when I made my decision -- I just kind of fell in love with golf. I went my way, Austin went his way and here we are. I played baseball football, basketball up until freshman year and then dropped everything else for golf."
Jake stunned more than his family.
"Oh yeah," he said. "It was anticipated by I think our whole city. They saw what my brother did and they expected the same from me. So, when it came time to make that decision, without a doubt it was the hardest thing I had to do. One, it was telling my father, who bred football players, that I wasn't going to play.
"But he and my mom were always so supportive and it's why I love my family so much. I was expecting such a tragic outcome from it, disowning me, whatever. But they say, `You know, you might be smarter than all of us. You can get out of bed when you're 50.' My dad pops this and cracks that. It's worked out. Everything is exactly the way it should be. God's plan always finds its way."
Jake said that while his dad was the influence, there's a different force in the Appleby family, one who has a North Canton practice in clinical counseling and psychology.
"My mom, Julia, she's the boss," the Herd golfer said, a sentiment echoed by Austin. "She's definitely the boss. We're more scared of my mom than we are my dad. She's always on top of things, always riding our butts to make sure we do well in school, act right on the field, always very supportive.
"She knows our passions are our sports and that's what we want to do for the rest of our lives and she stresses education. She owns her own practice and my dad owns his own company, so the education part is really stressed for us. But they know our time is going to the course, to the field."
Austin took the Purdue starting job for the last seven games last season, then won the job again Wednesday following an August camp competition. His younger brother "is still a quarterback at heart," Austin said. "We joke about that all the time. But we help each other in our sports. And when we get a chance to be together, we work with each other's games."
One of those occasions came this summer, when the Appleby brothers went to Los Angeles for several days to train with noted sports performance psychologist and clinician Tom House. The quarterback had worked with House previously, but Jake was a newcomer.
"He worked with us for a number of different reasons," Austin said. "What we learned can really be a great help to both of us, because while we don't play the same sport, he can help all rotational athletes. In our two sports, you're basically doing the same movement at the same levels, the way we train ... the hips rotating, creating force.
"He's worked with Tom Brady, Drew Brees, other guys. With Jacob in golf, (House) has Phil Mickelson as one of his clients. He's worked with the best. And if I want to reach my full potential in football -- and I know Jacob wants to do that as a golfer -- we're going to go down every possible avenue. His process can help us get there."
Jake "had a great trip and now he can implement these things," Austin said.
"It was sports psychology, nutrition, the whole thing," Jake said. "You know, stuff like what makes you go from good to great. All the college guys who are really talented? Well, not doing that will set them apart from those pro guys who are dominating the sport. It's the extra edge you've got to go do. If you want to be the best, you've got to learn from the best.
"So we go out there and Austin does his stuff with quarterback instructors and I do my stuff, more thinking, psychological -- because I have the talent. I just have to figure it out. On our Marshall team, everybody is very, very good at the sport. I strongly believe I live with and play next to 10 future PGA pros if we get our stuff going in the right direction.
"So, my brother and I go to LA, do our thing and feel better about it. He's been working really hard, mechanical issues. In high school he had too long of a stride and whatnot. Austin wanted to tighten it up, and he's done really well with that, which helps his velocity and his accuracy.
"It's a long process and he's getting better every day. He's a grinder for sure; I'm the same way. He's always been my model and I try to take his work ethic and copy it -- just on the golf course. Sometimes I'll be there from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. working on something until I get it."
And while Jake once played football, how's Austin on the golf course?
"I'm a hack ... you're looking for my ball," the Purdue quarterback said.
"We played golf together a couple of times (in California)," Jake said. "He'll come out on a weekend with me. Tom (House) actually recommended he go out and play some golf to get his head on for football ... it helps him with clearing his hips. We're all rotational core, rotational athletes. So, it complements him actually.
"Just like if I were to throw a football. House told me to do that. So, we'll throw a football in the driveway. I'll run routes for him when we're home together; we'll go to the high school field. And he'll throw balls down for me and I'll hit putts or whatnot.
"It's not the same game, but we're helping each other toward the same goal, which is to be the best. I push him, he pushes me every day of the week -- even at Purdue, seven hours away from here."
If you've been past the Edwards Stadium west parking lot this spring and summer, on a couple of occasions you may have seen a large black and old gold -- Purdue colors -- RV parked at the south end of that lot. That's the Applebys' vehicle. And on Sept. 6, Jake will either be in there eating the "all kinds of great" Julia-prepared food, or playing his first college golf match.
Grobe said the younger Appleby might be one of the longest hitters in college golf.
"He hits it a ton," Austin said when asked about Jake's drives. "The way he hits it is uncommon and the sky's the limit in the game for Jacob. The way it comes off his club ... what he needs is to get better 100 (yards) in. He works hard at it.
"He's found his niche and I'm so happy he did. We watch TV, and I want the NFL Network or Big Ten Network and he wants the Golf Channel ... but I love the way he's so passionate about what he does."
Jake said he doesn't get to talk with Austin as much as he'd like because of their different college lives. "Our conversations are brief, our schedules don't match up all of the time," Jake said. "We'll text each other. I'll text him at 6 a.m., and he's back at 8, I'm back at 10. It's like ping-pong.
"We talk probably about once a week, talk about how things are going with our sports, how things are going with school. We shoot the breeze a little, like brothers do. We talk about faith a lot. We're both very faithful."
So, whether it's the uniqueness of Sept. 6, 2015, or any other day on the calendar, these Appleby brothers are in it together. Their brotherly love seems to run even deeper than their athletic abilities and goals.
"We are both grinders," Austin said. "We were raised by our parents by the motto `There's no magic.' You work to get where you want to go."