By Joanna Chadwick
Maize South twins Hunter and Braden Niemann are in a whole new experience.
“We’ve always been in the same boat,” Hunter said.
They’ve wrestled, run track, played football, did power lifting.
But after Hunter tore the ACL in his left knee in a non-contact drill in football practice, he has been sidelined while Braden continues to play in the secondary.
“It’s definitely strange,” said Hunter, a running back. “It’s weird watching him play and I’m not able to. I’m happy for him. I’m sure it makes him appreciate it, knowing it could end just like that…. You never know when something can go wrong.”
Maize South is 4-2 after beating Hays 21-20 on Friday. The Mavericks have gone 1-1 with Hunter sidelined.
Before the season started, it was Covid-19 that had the Niemanns concerned. Maize South did lose one game due to Covid.
“I’m hoping we can enjoy the full season,” Braden said in September. “I want to be able to find success with my teammates and in my last year playing in high school.”
No surprise, Braden and Hunter have always been competitive with each other.
“It’s a competition to get better,” Braden said. “It’s someone you can push for you to improve. We’re always wanting to one-up each other. It’s not that we hate each other. It’s more using his improvement and my jealousy to make myself better to beat him. It’s a healthy jealousy.”
Braden noted the 4.5-second 40-yard dash that Hunter runs, while Braden goes 4.6.
Braden wants a 4.5 bad.
They have long worked to challenge themselves, even asking to start a powerlifting club at Maize South and then asking assistant coach Justin Burke to be the coach.
“Doing things like squats has helped improve my speed,” Hunter said. “And overall it’s helped improve my athleticism and my body…. I’m tough. I’m able to go through contact and I’m definitely not scared to take hits or give hits.
The twins spent the spring and summer focused on football. They had speed training, 7 on 7, weights, even catching 300 tennis balls one-handed while you’re jumping to get better at catching passes or interceptions. Everything was designed to improve.
“We get much better together,” Hunter said. “He has helped me a lot in my journey. Yes, there’s a ton of competition. Who gets more stats, better stats, who’s faster, who’s stronger. But we’re always there to push each other to be stronger.”
Both are looking to play football in college, and that hasn’t changed since Hunter’s injury.
The injury was as shock.
“It was non-contact, in the middle of practice. I took a cut and my cleat stuck in the turf,” Hunter said. “I first went down and thought I hyper-extended my knee…. I felt great the next day. I thought everything was fine.
“… The MRI showed a complete tear of the ACL, a minor tear in the MCL and meniscus and a sprained LCL.”
Such a serious injury is a first for Hunter, who has already had surgery.
“I can’t control what already happened. I’m going to focus on what I can do now,” Hunter said. “I’m going to work hard on my (physical therapy), I’m focusing on the future and everything I can do now.
“College football is as much of a goal as ever. This is a setback. It won’t stop me. I’ve never faced a challenge I haven’t beaten. This is no different. I’m confident I’ll be stronger and faster, as explosive as ever.”