<strong>July 20, 2005</strong>
Source: <a href="http://www.sbsun.com/Stories/0,1413,208~28777~2972790,00.html">San Bernardino County Sun</a>
RANCHO CUCAMONGA - Brothers Brad and Cory Lekkerkerker are looking to go from football upstarts to NFL employees.
The former Chaffey College offensive linemen begin their quest to land roster spots with professional teams next week when training camps open.
Cory, 23, is headed to camp with the San Diego Chargers; older brother Brad, 27, will try out for the Oakland Raiders, who train in Napa. It will be Brad's second go-round in the NFL, having been cut by Houston and later picked up by the Raiders for the practice squad.
"It won't be easy,' Cory said. "But you never know unless you try. We have been working out very hard all year because we don't want to have any regrets. If we don't make it, we don't want it to be because we didn't work hard enough.'
The brothers are excited about having a chance, especially given their limited experience. At 6-foot-7, 324 pounds, both are physically imposing. They always have been larger than others their age, so they never played youth fooball.
Both attended Damien High School. Cory played football there, but Brad did not. Both dabbled in other sports such as baseball and soccer.
After graduating in 1996, Brad enrolled at Mt. San Antonio College but was there for just one semester. He spent the next three years running a dairy farm in Corona owned by his uncle.
When Cory finished high school in 2000, Brad followed him to Chaffey. The pair started every game there the next two years, then transferred to UC Davis.
"I knew about Cory because we recruited him out of high school,' Chaffey coach Carl Beach said. "Brad really just came along for the ride. They are both physically gifted, but you could see how green they were, especially Brad. It isn't often you get kids that size to work with. The teams they were on were two of our better teams here.'
The opportunity to play alongside his brother provided motivation. Both older sisters are teachers with master's degrees, so ther always been a family emphasis on education, headed by mother Patti.
"I wasn't big on school, but I wanted to go back and get the degree,' Brad said. "My uncle was downsizing at the farm, so it was the right time. Football was a great motivation.'
Cory had the better resume coming out of college, based largely on experience. As a senior, he was an all-Great West Football Conference first-team selection, helping the Aggies average 402 yards tot The previous year he was named winner of the school's Jim Ferrier Award, which goes to the top transfer.
San Diego and Seattle were among teams that showed an interest in Cory earlier this year while preparing for the draft. The Chargers brought him out for a predraft interview but passed on him, although t signed him as a free agent a week later.
Cory was not surprised he didn't get drafted because his brother was bypassed the previous year. Brad's eligibiliy at Davis ran out a year earlier because Cory redshirted the first year there.
"All I wanted was a second chance,' Cory said. "The Chargers gave me that. It is the team close to home. So I couldn't be happier.'
Both know the odds are against them. There are the incumbent veteran starters, their backups and the high draft choices in which the teams have invested considerable money.
"It's not a matter of the veterans putting us in our place. We know our place,' Brad said. "You have to be ready to step up when you get the chance. You may get only two reps out of 10, so you have to be ready for when it's time for those two.
"You can't control how the guys ahead of you do, you can only control what you do.'
Brad knows his age is one strike against him, although offensive linemen can play well into their 30s. Beach said the lack of experience could be a positive or a negative.
Although Brad lacks experience, his body also hasn't taken the pounding that comes with playing.
Both say they haven't decided what they will do if they fail to earn a spot. Cory said he would like to stay in the game, maybe in a coaching capacity. Brad said he doesn't have the patience for that and would likely either continue his education or do something that would use his degree in sociology.
Even if they don't stick with a team, there are other options such as Canadian football, NFL Europe and Arena ball. How they perform will factor into a decision on whether they keep trying. Both say as long as they see progress in their play, they would pursue other options.
Beach also knows the odds are against them but he won't bet against them.
"They are big guys, but off the field they're really gentle giants. They are good kids from a good family,' he said. "But on the field they are fierce competitors.'