Brothers Michael (66) and Jonathan Kalafatis protect the left side of the offensive line for ETBU's football team

Jonathan and Michael Kalafatis are usually around each other. That’s especially true of on the football field where the brothers each play on the left side of the ETBU’s offensive line.

“It’s pretty cool,” Jonathan said. “I play left tackle and he plays left guard. So we’re side-by-side and we have a great connection. If my guy gets away from me, I know I can really trust that Mike is going to get him. It’s been like that pretty much our whole lives with everything else and football is no different.”

“It’s a lot of fun,” Michael added. “Like he said, we’ve always had each other’s backs. Being able to play right next to each other on the offense line is really fun.”

Two years separate the brothers but they’re both juniors.

“When I first graduated, I did my first semester at Sam Houston,” Michael explained. “I was a pre-vet major. I ended up changing my mind about what I wanted to do so I came home and took some classes at a community college for a while and changed my major. When he started getting recruited his senior year, I started talking to the coaches as well and basically walked on here.”

Michael, a nursing major, is carrying on with the field in which he watched his family work.

“I’m a nursing major,” he said. “I started the program this fall. Growing up, we were always around medical people. My mom and grandma, that’s just always been part of life. That’s what I was meant to do. I have a lot of knowledge in that field. Even a lot of the stuff we’re going over now, we’re learning this stuff and I’m like, ‘Hey, I remember my mom and grandma talking about that.’ It just feels natural.”

“I’m changing my major to kinesiology,” Jonathan said. “I want to be a coach. I was a nursing major. I woke up the other day, I had just been back to a Newton game, and I said, ‘You know what? I just love being around football. I love thinking about football. I love watching football. I love going to practice and seeing kids getting better, freshmen,’ and I just knew I’m called to be a coach. I can’t be thinking and feeling like this if it wasn’t really what I was supposed to do. That’s where I am now.”

While protecting the quarterback and trying to open up holes for the runners, Michael wears No. 66 while his brother wears No. 72.

“I’ve been 72 for a while,” Jonathan said. “It was my junior year when my coach, coach W.T. Johnston, he passed away, he was passing out jerseys and he said, ‘That’s a killer’s jersey right there. You’ve got to go out and kill somebody,’ and I was like, ‘Ok,’ but ever since then, I’ve worn it for him and I just stuck to it.”

“My dad was 66,” Michael offered. “He never got to finish playing in high school because he had to go to work. When I first started, it was for that. Then my senior year, they were passing out jerseys and I told my coach I wanted 66 and he goes, ‘Hmm, mark of the beast. I like it.’”

There’s obviously a bond between the two brothers but it doesn’t stop there. It extends to the rest of the team.

“Those are my brothers,” Jonathan said of his teammates. “I go in that locker room and everybody’s smiling. There’s really not anybody fighting with each other. It’s football. We’re always hitting each other in practice but we’re all singing together and there’s a lot of love in that locker room and that’s what family is right there.”

“I feel like there’s a lot less individuality this year too,” Michael continued. “Everybody is playing for the team. In years past, we’ve had guys who were all about them. I feel like there’s not a whole lot of that this year.”

“We stress so much about unity on the team,” ETBU head football coach Brian Mayper said. “They just interact like any other teammates. We’re a big family and that’s kind of our purpose here – to be unified. So to me they interact with each other the same as they interact with other teammates, which ideally, is what you want to see as head coach if that’s your purpose.”

Today is a big day for the Kalafatis brothers, and their other brothers on the team as they look to earn their first win of the year in their home opener and their conference opener against Texas Lutheran.

“They’ve got a lot of scrappy guys,” Michael said of the Bulldogs. “We’ve just got to play hard and keep our mistakes to a minimum. They’re going to play hard for four quarters.”

“They’re not going to overpower us but like we’ve been talking about all week – if we go out, execute just like we’ve been practicing, they shouldn’t be in the game,” Jonathan continued.

“They beat us last year. We fumbled with a minute and 30 (seconds) to go in the game and gave them a short field and ended up losing. This year, we’re going to cut the mistakes and outplay them. I don’t think they’ll be able to play with us.”

“If we play anything like we did in Wisconsin, I don’t think they’ll stand a chance,” Michael added.

“Just winning the turnover battle,” Mayper said when asked what the key to winning the game is. “We have to eliminate turnovers. I think we’re going to play hard for four quarters.

“I think they’re going to play hard for four quarters. It’s just about who’s going to score when opportunities come their way and who’s going to stop them when opportunities go against them. We’re tied for third so we’re pretty evenly matched. They’re a well coached team and I believe we’re well coached also. It should be a great conference opener.”

Tonight’s game between the two 0-1 teams is slated for a 6 p.m. kickoff at ETBU’s Ornelas Stadium in Marshall.