Jake Bretz and Mitch Weber are more than just teammates.
They grew up next to each other as neighbors – and still are to this day – and on the youth football field, the two kindled a long-lasting friendship and even saw some early success.
“I remember when we were five or six years old we won the Lanier Bowl,” Weber said. “It was like the dream team.”
And while Bretz and Weber have grown into their respective positions on the gridiron years later for Forsyth Central, the former as a tall wide receiver and the latter as a strong defensive lineman, those weren’t the duo’s original roles.
In his younger days, Bretz played tackle, while Weber was a
running back. The youth coach that helped their upbringing, Andrew Dickman, was
in attendance at Central as the duo prepared to take another step in their
football journey together, signing to play their sport at their respective
“It's incredible,” Dickman said. “That's what you want as a youth coach, is to see boys mature and grow up and turn into fine young men and good athletes, and take it to the collegiate level.
“When they called me and told me they were doing this, there's no way I wouldn't be here. I took off work early to come here.”
Bretz, who signed with Berry College, was a first-team All-County selection as a senior, with 20 catches for 250 yards and four touchdowns. He did damage as the Bulldogs’ primary kick returner and as a defensive back as well, returning two kickoffs for touchdowns and adding 25 tackles and two interceptions.
“I'm just really excited to play,” Bretz said. “I'm just really honored that I can have the ability to play college football, because it's a really rare thing. It's an honor.
“(It’s) the coaches, the players and the atmosphere. The coaches genuinely care, I think. They just sent me personal letters and they really wanted me. It's a great school.”
Weber’s road to the collegiate ranks was a bit rockier. After tearing his ACL early in his junior season, his college prospects dried up.
“It's a stab to your heart, basically,” Weber said. “It's like, “Dang, I think everything's over.’”
Thankfully for Weber, he rebounded from his injury as a senior, garnering first-team All-County honors with 32 tackles, five for loss, two sacks, two fumble recoveries, an interception and two defensive touchdowns.
His performance gave him a chance at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas, where he hopes to do well enough to play on a bigger stage.
“It was crazy, just knowing all the things I had to overcome,” Weber said. “I didn't think I would be here, and I'm just grateful Coffeyville is giving me an opportunity to get back out there and show what I can do.
“For kids who don't think they can do it because they're in a bad situation or they get a setback, just keep going and it'll pay off. That's all I really can say.”