ELMWOOD PARK — Identical twins Jesus and Javier Carillo feel like they have something to prove this season.
Due to jobs and personal reasons, the Elmwood Park seniors never fully committed themselves to the football program. In fact, both players took last season off.
Not playing football had an effect on the brothers. They missed the Friday night games, the camaraderie with teammates and the sense of purpose. So they decided to play one final season and are on a mission.
“I missed the bond that I had with everyone else on my team,” Jesus Carillo said. “I even missed the horrible smell of the pads. With it being my senior year, I felt like it was my time to prove what I can do, to my friends and the coaches, and I’ve went all-out for it. I also wanted to prove to myself that I could have the mental toughness to stick with it for the full season.”
“We wanted to get back on the field,” Javier Carillo said. “We had something to settle and we wanted to show that we wanted to play. That’s the reason we got the Mohawk [haircuts].”
It didn’t take long for the brothers to find the field. They’re both starting linebackers and have seen time on offense in the backfield.
At 5-9 and 180 pounds, Jesus Carillo is heavier and stronger, which is why he plays strong-side linebacker and fullback. He’s more of a run stopper, while his brother, who is the same height and weighs 10 pounds less, is more of a pass rusher. Javier Carillo also is a running back for the Tigers (1-2).
“They’re great kids and it’s unfortunate we didn’t have them last year because they would be that much more comfortable and be well-polished football players,” Elmwood Park coach John Freeman said. “We weren’t sure what we were going to get because they took a year off, but they’re two kids you love having on your team. They play hurt, they’ll play whatever position we tell them to and they play hard and physical.”
Both players saw plenty of action Friday night in Elmwood Park’s 47-7 loss to Glenbard South in a Metro Suburban crossover. Javier Carillo scored the team’s only touchdown, a four-yard run in the fourth quarter. It’s a moment he’ll always treasure.
“It was exciting, very emotional scoring my first varsity touchdown,” Javier Carillo said. “But I tried not to think about it too much because it’s about the team. I want to win, not just go out there and play well.”
Jesus Carillo had a few mixed emotions watching his brother plow into the end zone.
“I was a little bit jealous,” Jesus Carillo said. “I really want to score a touchdown, but there’s a reason why I’m not running the ball, because they need me as a blocker. They trust me to do that so I’m just happy to be on the field and helping when we scored.”
With a third of the regular season over, the brothers are realizing their time playing football is coming to a close.
“Right before the first game I told my friends and my brother, ‘This is the beginning of the end,’ ” Javier Carillo said. “This will be the last year we put our shoulder pads and helmets on. So we just go out there and try to play every game like it’s the last.”