Breininger inspired by his brother's strength
Taylor Breininger is having one of those years that a senior football player dreams of having. Recently, in the Tigers rivalry game against Northern Lehigh, Breininger recovered a fumble and returned it 74 yards for a touchdown, took a kick-off return back 90 yards for another touchdown, and just for good measure, caught a two-yard touchdown pass from Frank Dangello. It was just another night on the field for Breininger, who is following in his family's football tradition at Northwestern.
Colton Breininger, Taylor's older brother, also played for Northwestern and, like Taylor, was a two-way starter. Current Northwestern coach Josh Snyder was an assistant when Colton was at Northwestern and has always been impressed with how close the brothers are.
"The boys have always been close and tight," said Snyder. "They're both good players and very talented, but they're both also good leaders and good kids off the field."
Colton Breininger actually started another tradition that his younger brother has followed during his playing days with the Tigers. Colton would have the name "Jake" written on his wrist tape. Now, Taylor has the name "Jake" written on his ankle tape.
Jake is the middle Breininger brother, who was also a good athlete, but his athletic career ended years before he even reached high school.
As an eight-year old kid, Jake Breininger was active and athletic. He played youth football, but started to complain about constant leg pain and was limping a lot. Jake's dad, Chris, had the same type of pains when he was a kid and it turned out to be simple growing pains, so the family wasn't too worried. They wanted to be sure, so they took Jake to the family doctor, who referred them to an orthopedic specialist. The specialist took routine x-rays to see what was going on and that's pretty much when Jake's athletic career came to an end.
"The minute the doctor walked in and put the x-rays up on the board, even I could see something was wrong," said Jake's mother, Teri.
The x-rays showed not only that Jake had a fractured fibula, but after more tests, Jake was eventually diagnosed with McCune-Albright Syndrome, which causes his bones to be far less dense than they should be. At the time, Jake was one of only about 300 people to have been diagnosed with the disease. That diagnosis not only ended Jake's athletic career, but has greatly affected life in general. Fortunately for him, Jake has both an older and a younger brother that have always had his back.
"I've never known three siblings as close knit as they are. They've always been really close," said Teri Breininger. "I don't know of many brothers who always tell each other 'I love you,' but they always do that."
Jake and Taylor would have been teammates on the Northwestern team, if not for Jake's diagnosis. Instead, Taylor is out on the field every Friday night, while Jake is in the stands, cheering him on.
"I absolutely love having him at the games," said Taylor. "When I see how happy he is when I make a play or we win, it just makes it all worth it and gives me a great feeling. He's an extraordinary person and I don't think I could have gone through half as much as he's gone through."
Jake has been through a lot. More than 15 broken bones, resulting in 12 surgeries, seven of which have come in the last five years. His mom remembers one incident when they were just walking out of the school and Jake stubbed his toe on the sidewalk and broke his fibula. Through it all, Jake has kept up a strong spirit. He's still able to work out, but can't do much work on his legs, because they seem to have borne the brunt of the damage from the McCune-Albright Syndrome.
You might think that Jake would have at least a little resentment about the fact that he didn't get to follow in Colton's footsteps or to have played alongside Taylor and have the chance to show what he could do on a football field, but he doesn't.
"I absolutely love going to the games and love watching Taylor," said Jake. "We're always together and it's great to see him playing so well and to see how good the team is and to know that he's a part of that."
While it had to be difficult at times for Jake to watch his brothers' athletic endeavors, it can't be easy to be Colton or Taylor and know that their sibling would love to have the opportunities that they've had athletically.
"I can't say that I feel bad for him, mainly because he doesn't feel bad for himself," Taylor said. "I just wish he could know what it feels like to play at this level and know how it feels to have brothers cheering him on."
Jake's experiences are leading him to a career in the medical field, although he's not sure what part of the field he wants to go into. For now, he's attending Lehigh Carbon Community College until he decides which way he wants to go.
"This has 100-percent inspired me to work in the medical field," said Jake. "I've seen a lot of what the doctors and nurses do and how much they can help people and it's really inspired me."
The whole family is hoping to reach somewhat of a milestone in the next few weeks. If he avoids any injuries until December, it will be the first year since he was in second grade that Jake hasn't had a broken bone.
"That's going to be nice. That's what I mean about what he's been through and how tough it's had to be," said Taylor about his brother's impending milestone. "I'm really grateful to be his brother."