For two brothers close in age, Torbyn and Brittyn Eakins are a lot different.

A 6-foot-6, 300-pounder nicknamed “Turbo,” Torbyn is both towering and gregarious. A chiseled 200-pounder standing just about 6-foot-1, Brittyn is the quiet introvert.

“They definitely are night and day in their personality and demeanor,” New Oxford coach Jason Warner said with a laugh. “Brit doesn’t say a whole lot. Turbo doesn’t ever stop talking. He’ll go on for days.” The brothers have always had different positions in sports and have wildly different career goals. But they’re now trying to achieve those goals together.

The Eakins brothers both received offers to play football for Morehead State, a Division I FCS school in Kentucky, a week before Christmas and officially committed this Wednesday. An offensive tackle transferring from Division II Seton Hill, Torybn will be on scholarship entering his junior year. A New Oxford senior and the GameTimePA YAIAA Defensive Player of the Year, Brittyn has accepted a preferred walk-on spot as a running back and will be graduating early and enrolling in college this month. It’s possible that Torbyn will be opening holes for Brittyn to run through at some point the next two years.

But both players will need to get healthy for that to happen. Torbyn is recovering from a dislocated shoulder that should be healed this spring. Brittyn is another story. He broke his right foot during basketball season his junior year. Then he fractured his tibia and ruptured all the tendons in his right ankle this October. In December, Brittyn still hadn’t been cleared to walk and was using a scooter to move around. He hopes he’ll be ready to play next season. The injuries ended his outstanding senior football season and derailed his recruitment. It’s likely he would have had numerous scholarship opportunities if he had stayed healthy.

Still, he’s grateful for the opportunity to play college football alongside a sibling who has gone through his own adversity and already traveled across the country with him. “He’s seen through me, this is possible,” Torbyn said. “I had the same (shoulder) injury my senior year of high school and made it to the college level. His family has had his back this whole time.” “This has been my dream,” Brittyn added simply. “And it’s even better to do that with my brother.”

Sports Run in the Eakins Family

Basketball was always a tradition in the Eakins household. Brittyn and Torbyn’s grandfather, “Jumbo” Jim Eakins, is 6-foot-11 and played center for eight years in the ABA and two more in the NBA. Their father, Jeff, followed in Jim’s footsteps as a BYU hoops player and then went into coaching. Brittyn and Torbyn both played basketball throughout high school ― Torbyn got the family’s height gene ― but they showed more potential in football growing up.

“I got him in height but he’s got me in everything else,” Torbyn said about his brother. “He’s got the athlete’s body.”

Still, basketball helped expose the brothers to different parts of the country and ultimately land them in Pennsylvania. While most of the Eakins family lives in Utah, Brittyn and Torbyn spent their early years in Idaho because Jeff was coaching an NBA-affiliated D-League team there. Then the family moved to Maryland when Jeff took an assistant coaching position at Johns Hopkins.

A Civil War history buff, Jeff ran basketball camps in south central Pennsylvania and fell in love with the Gettysburg area. He took a job teaching in the Bermudian Springs School District and moved the family to Adams County in 2018. “We left Idaho when I was six, but I love that country and farmland out there,” Torbyn said. “But we’d been to New Oxford a few times (while living in Maryland), and we loved being able to move up here.”

In 2020, the two brothers were both varsity standouts for a New Oxford team that went 6-1 in the pandemic-shortened season and nearly upset powerhouse Warwick in the District 3 Class 5A semifinals. Torbyn was a senior tight end and defensive end. Just a sophomore, Brittyn was already getting carries at running back and lining up across from his brother on the defensive line.

By that point, Torbyn was well-aware that his younger brother was a “beast” who would only get better. And while the two of them had always been competitive growing up, that season gave them both an idea that never went away. “That was when we formed a true brother-like bond,” Torbyn said. “That’s why we want to play together now. We want to run it back.”

A Career-Ending Injury

Brittyn instantly knew his high school career was over.

New Oxford was preparing for a game against Maryland powerhouse Fort Hill in Week 9. The Colonials were ranked third in District 3 Class 5A with a 7-1 record, and a lot of that success was due to Eakins. His quickness and impressive strength for his 200-pound frame made him nearly unblockable at defensive end, where he had already racked up 11 sacks. He was the team’s leading rusher (over 500 yards) even though New Oxford sometimes rested him on offense.

But on this day, he was lined up at running back during a full-contact drill. The Colonials were mostly going over pass plays, but they practiced two runs, and Eakins sprinted up the sideline after one of them. A linebacker tackled him and landed on his right ankle.

He immediately heard a pop.

“Crap,” Eakins said when asked the first thing that went through his mind. “This is it. This is my career. It’s broken. I won’t be able to play football in high school.”

His head coach also knew his team had just lost its best player for the stretch run of what could’ve been a special season. “The way he came down didn’t look right,” Warner said. “He yelled in pain, and he has a high pain tolerance. It was hard because we felt for him as a senior, and we felt we had a pretty good shot to make some noise in the playoffs.” He had surgery on his ankle the following week — less than a year after he’d had surgery on his right foot.

The Colonials finished the regular season 8-2 but lost their first playoff game, 20-7, to Northern York. While frustrated, Brittyn tried to serve as a coach to the players filling in for him. “He could’ve gone a lot of different ways,” Warner said. “He really did a good job staying the course, which is admirable because that’s tough for a lot of high school kids. And I can’t imagine how he’s fully coped because it’s been a really long road for him.”

At the same time, Torbyn was dealing with his own struggles. A sophomore at Seton Hill, he had moved to offensive tackle and was starting to get some playing time. During the last game of the season, he was “wrenched back” by two Millersville players and dislocated his shoulder. For different reasons, he decided he wanted to transfer. He declined to go into specifics, but said he loved his teammates and coaches but realized the school “wasn’t the right place for me.” Torbyn was now looking for a new college at the same time Brittyn was hoping any school would take a chance on him. “It was my dream to play college football,” Brittyn said. “I was trying to stay positive and tell myself I would come back better but it was hard.”

The Waiting is the Hardest Part for Brittyn

The biggest lesson Brittyn has learned over the past year is how to be patient.

When he broke his foot last basketball season, he tried to return too soon and hurt it worse. That led to him missing all of the offseason recruitment camps he wanted to attend. Over the same time period, Torbyn said he learned to be more assertive and go after what he wanted. When he realized he had a better chance to get on the field at tackle than tight end, he accepted the challenge and bulked up. When he realized he wasn’t happy where he was, he decided to change schools.

Those lessons both paid dividends this fall.

Torbyn sent his film to college coaches across the country. Brittyn realized he might have to wait for an opportunity at a lower level, but didn’t allow his injury to drive him crazy the way it did last spring. When college coaches responded to Torbyn, he would follow up with his brother’s highlight film. They visited a handful of schools together and traveled to Morehead State last month. Torbyn said the team’s coaching staff was impressed with Brittyn enough to extend him a walk-on spot despite his injury.

“I think this will be a great experience for the both of us and a lot of fun,” Brittyn said. “With this (latest) surgery, it’s been easier because I learned patience from the first injury. It’s been easier getting around and accepting it.”

Morehead State is coming off a 2-9 season but was 7-4 in 2021 under longtime head coach Rob Tenyer. The Eakins brothers are both reporting to the school in two weeks. Torbyn is planning to major in business and wants to work in the sports industry. Brittyn will major in astronomy and could see himself working for NASA.

They don’t expect living in Kentucky to be difficult since it’ll be the fourth state they’ve lived in. Brittyn knows rehab will be “a lot” but is hoping to eventually earn a scholarship like his brother. Torbyn thinks his younger brother will defy expectations once he’s healthy.

“I’m not surprised he’s gotten to this level,” Torbyn said. “He’s always been a beast. Little league teams would scout him and he’d still make the tackle. I knew he would be this good. But to have this experience with him, with everything I’ve been working at my whole life, makes it really special.”

Matt Allibone is a sports reporter for GameTimePA. He can be reached at 717-881-8221, or on Twitter at @bad2theallibone.