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Canadian twins Chase, Sydney Brown set to make college football history

Chase Brown and Sydney Brown Chase Brown and Sydney Brown - The Canadian Press

They were born together, they grew up together and attend the same American university.

Next week, Canadians Chase and Sydney Brown will make U.S. college football history together.

The Browns, identical twins from London, Ont., will represent Illinois at the Big Ten media days Tuesday and Wednesday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. It's reportedly the first time in U.S. college football history that twins will participate in a media day event together.

Illinois' session is scheduled for Wednesday.

"Sydney and I always dreamt about playing college ball together and that's been the story since the start," Chase Brown told The Canadian Press in a telephone interview. "A couple of days ago we looked back and reflected on our path to where we are right now.

"We recalled a time when we were at our mom's place looking out at local high school in London watching homecoming games and thinking we couldn't wait to play high school football and be like those guys . . . and here we are now. This is a terrific opportunity to represent the great men and players who've been part of this program and the university at such a high level . . . it's one we're looking forward to and ready for."

The brothers were significant contributors last season for Illinois (5-7 overall record, 4-5 in the Big Ten) in Bret Bielema's first season as head coach.

Chase Brown, a five-foot-11, 205-pound running back, was the Big Ten's third-leading rusher (1,005 yards on 170 carries, 5.9-yard average) with five touchdowns. He added 14 catches for 142 yards (10.1-yard average) and was named to the All Big 10 third team.

Sydney Brown, a six-foot, 200-pound defensive back, is a four-year starter at the school with 262 tackles and four interceptions in 38 career starts. He was an All-Big Ten honorable mention last season after registering 81 tackles (team-high 50 solo).

This week, Chase Brown was added to the watch list for both the Maxwell Award for college player of the year and Doak Walker Award for top running back. He was also on last year's Walker list.

A second straight 1,000-yard season would enhance Chase Brown's childhood dream of one day playing in the NFL. And he's looking forward to being a part of first-year offensive co-ordinator/quarterback coach Barry Lunny Jr.'s gameplan.

"His offence is a lot faster, we're spread out more and we're going to get a lot of playmakers the ball as well," Brown said. "That's going to be exciting to watch and I'm glad to be a part of it.

"But I'm not going to change the way I play. I'm going to go hard no matter what every single time I get an opportunity on the field . . . if I do that, then everything else will fall into place."

While an NFL career remains a priority for Brown, he's keeping the door open on a possible return to Canada.

"My goal since I I was a child was to play pro football," he said. "I grew up watching Canadian football, I played it in high school and I'm not opposed to that idea at all.

"I'm not in control of where I go. The only thing I control right now is the work I put in and the production I have on the field . . . that's what I have to focus on."

The Browns began their high school careers in London before moving to Bradenton, Fla., and helping St. Stephen’s Episcopal School win consecutive Sunshine State Athletic Conference titles. Chase Brown originally enrolled at Western Michigan because of its aviation program before rejoining his brother at Illinois.

There's precious little physically that distinguishes the two, who both wear their hair in a bun. Sydney Brown is slightly bigger but Chase Brown is the older of the two, by about two minutes. In full gear, the only way to tell them apart on the field is by their numbers -- Chase Brown wears No. 2 while Sydney Brown dons No. 30.

If the Browns graduate to the pro ranks. they'll very likely be on different teams, something Chase Brown said he and his brother fully understand.

"Obviously we don't choose where we go at the next level," Brown said. "A lot of it has to do with how we play and what teams are interested.

"But we've done so much here together that we'll be able to reflect upon it together in the future, so we're good."

This season, the Browns will again be carrying the torch for young football players north of the border, providing more evidence Canadians can play in the NCAA.

"Canada is often overlooked for football," Brown said. "I just hope we can motivate more Canadians to make the move and just know it's not impossible to get down and play at a Power Five school.

"But this doesn't come without sacrifice, it takes a lot of hard work. As long as you learn to put in the work, it's not impossible to do."

Illinois is slated to open its '22 season hosting Wyoming on Aug. 27. And Brown, for one, isn't resting upon his laurels.

"We're really confident in what we have and we're just looking forward to putting it on the field," he said. "We just have to dominate every single week, be the best players we can be on the field, the best people we can in the community and leave Champagne, Ill., feeling good and like we left this university in a better place than when we came in."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2022.