Schwarzenegger isn't the only big name around Sacramento these
days. Try Lekkerkerker on for size. Twice. Brothers Brad and Cory
Lekkerkerker are the bookend tackles on the UC Davis football
team, which is enjoying its 34th consecutive winning season. Brad
is 6'7" and 330 pounds; little brother Cory is 6'6" and 315. The
governor-elect of California is, for all his sculptured
musculature, a mite in comparison.
Located 12 miles west of the state capital, UC Davis is pretty
big itself, with an enrollment of 29,087 students, and is
thinking bigger with a move from Division II to Division I-AA
that will become official in 2007. The inseparable Lekkerkerkers,
meanwhile, are attracting considerable notice from NFL scouts.
And it is Brad, a senior, who most intrigues the bird dogs, even
though he's 25 and a relative football novice. How that came to
be is a story of paternal loss, brotherly love and the NCAA's
arcane eligibility regulations.
The Lekkerkerkers' paternal grandparents, who emigrated from the
Netherlands to California shortly after World War II, refused to
truncate their multisyllabic name. Brad and Cory were born in
Chino, a farming community east of Los Angeles, but they were
steeped in Old Country traditions (they even speak a little
Dutch) and worked on the family dairy farm while growing up. Both
were active in sports, encouraged by their soccer coach father,
Bill, and their mother, Patti. But when Bill died of cancer at 37
in 1987, Brad, then nine, lost all interest in games. "It wasn't
the same for me without him," he says. Brad did not play sports
at Damien High School or at nearby Mount San Antonio College,
which he entered in 1996. He dropped out after one semester and
went to work full time on the family farm.
Cory, three years younger than Brad, played on after his father
died, winning all-league honors as a lineman at Damien. Brad went
to all his brother's games, and when Cory enrolled at Chaffey
College in Rancho Cucamonga in 2000, Brad unexpectedly joined
him. "I had to determine what I was going to do with my life," he
recalls. "I wanted to go back to school."
Then came a bigger surprise: Brad wanted to play football again.
That season, his first in organized ball since he was a kid, he
won All-Foothill Conference honors as a freshman; he also earned
that distinction the next year. Cory, meanwhile, became a
second-team All-Foothill Conference lineman by his sophomore
year. The brothers were recruited by Division I schools: Brad by
Ohio State and Cory by Oklahoma State, among others.
The trouble was, Brad's five-year Division I eligibility clock
had started running when he became a full-time student at Mount
San Antonio in '96, and he was ineligible to play at that level.
Division II, which imposes no such restrictions, became the best
alternative for a suddenly promising player. After considering
various schools, Brad chose UC Davis.
Cory visited Oklahoma State, but after Brad made his decision,
Cory chose UC Davis as well. "I wanted to be with Brad," says
Cory. "We're not only brothers but also best friends." Cory
redshirted last season, so he still has a year of eligibility
after this season. Together this year the brothers anchor perhaps
the best line in school history, one that paved the way for 578
yards of total offense in a 48-19 win over Western Washington on
Oct. 18, which brought the Aggies' record to 4-2. "They are
strong and agile," coach Bob Briggs says of the Lekkerkerkers.
"Brad has the agility of a rabbit. Though both are quiet off the
field, they can be nasty on it."
Could the brothers Lekkerkerker end up playing on the same NFL
team? "It's our dream," says Cory, "but I'm not counting on it."
Says Brad, "Never in my life did I expect things to turn out the
way they have already."
The same might be said for that other fellow with the long name
up the road.
THREE COLOR PHOTOS: WAYNE TILCOCK/DAVIS ENTERPRISE PLOWBOYS Brad (71) and Cory, with their mom, Patti, haven't strayed far from the family farm.
Like Peas in a Pod
Brad and Cory Lekkerkerker aren't the only sibling combination
currently on the same college football team. Here are five other
* Mat Ball, senior DE, and Dave Ball, senior DE, UCLA
* Josh Bullocks, sophomore FS, and Daniel Bullocks, sophomore
* Jamaar Taylor, senior WR, and Earvin Taylor, freshman WR,
* Blake Wolf, junior TE, and Zach Wolf, sophomore C, Montana
* Rashaun Woods, senior WR; D'Juan Woods, redshirt freshman WR;
and Donovan Woods, freshman QB, Oklahoma State