No New Friends: SDSU Spring Camp Battles Shape A New Aztecs Brotherhood

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On Wednesday, SDSU head coach, Brady Hoke, met with the media to touch base on all the action of the first few days down at Spring Camp. By the looks and sounds of it, coach was in full LFG mode.

With the details of what the coaching staff has called Phase 1 complete (weights & conditioning), Spring football was the beginning of Phase 2 and the chance to get the guys transitioned to translate their new conditioned readiness on the field.

One thing that doesn’t change with that transition however, is the standard that coach Hoke & his staff hold each other and the players to.

“Whatever we tolerate is what we’ll become.” proclaimed coach Hoke. “As a team we’ve got to do a heck of a job everyday becoming a master of what we do and how we do it.”

These type of soundbites you can easily see plastered against the wall in the locker room, or workout facility, or the chow hall, if you want to get real motivational.

This type of foundation building is an every year tradition. With this 2022 team being a much younger Aztecs team than previously, it’s crucial.

Having the veteran leadership of aged super seniors, mixed in with freshman and redshirt freshman, is somewhat of a new dynamic that SDSU has often had to face in the form of other teams, generally from the Utah region.

That key senior leadership is what all of Aztec nation is hoping will pay dividends by molding the younger guys to help them develop more quickly and fully. Seniors like Captain Caden McDonald and Keshawn Banks of the defensive unit, and Alama Uluave, Chance Bell & Jordan Byrd on the offensive side of the ball, will be on the forefront.

No New Friends

For over a decade now, San Diego has witnessed SDSU build a deep Blood-In & Blood-Out brotherhood that has brought this football program up from the ashes of mediocrity to the top of the Mountain West Conference. But for those who have ever been a part of a brotherhood, they know it does not always consist of pats on the back and singing fight songs together.

With position battles raging all over the field, this 2022 team has some big opportunities for young guys to fight, battle, and earn their spots within this Aztecs brotherhood.

“I think it differs from team to team. You know a guy like Caden McDonald, how he plays with his energy … he established himself,” coach Hoke detailed.

“Sometimes it happens. You can have a guy whose a sophomore, who is dynamic, has great leadership, and isn’t afraid to call his teammates out because you know … you can’t be friends, you’ve got to be honest.”

“As a coach, sometimes you try to put a little more responsibility on a guy to see how he develops”

Brotherhood is forged by work—hard work together. Work to prove that you belong. But not just that you belong. You must prove that you can thrive on your own just as much as a part of the whole.

That work is not always fun. It’s a grind. A grind that builds bonds between each one that truly wants the best for the whole and continues to push each other past the limits they ever thought each would have to go.

All in order to keep the brotherhood alive.

Nothing could be more evident of this than our conversations with Jesse Matthews and brothers Caden & Cooper McDonald.

For Jesse, Spring Camp meant a tough part of the year of working on your individual self and the fine-tuning to get better.

With such a defensive juggernaut to face each day in practice and in camp, the only one to truly get under his skin most times last season was standout cornerback, Tayler Hawkins.

Knowing you have to be the most confident player on the field, Tayler’s talking ability was something that pushed Jesse despite being on the same team.

Watch below for Jesse’s details of how he handled trash talk on the field from both teammates and opposing players.

For Tayler, when we asked him about Jesse’s comments on getting under his skin, Hawkins replied, “Jesse and I are competitors and it can get heated on the practice field sometimes.”

These kinds of interactions and even fights are commonplace among brothers and in Spring camp—as they should be when trying to reveal true competitive spirit.

For Caden & Cooper McDonald, the two football brothers are aware of the pain that also comes with being a part of a ‘football brotherhood’. At an early age, both were placed to put on the pads and the much younger & smaller (at the time) Cooper was allowed to hit older brother Caden as many times as hard as he could.

I was in full tears and everything,” says Caden with a grin. “That obviously didn’t scare me away from football or anything, but it was definitely a learning experience for him,” Caden says with a grin.

Watch below as Caden & Cooper McDonald talk about their football brotherhood.

“It was good to grow up with him, it was fun we made a lot of good memories and to be able to be here with him and live in the same house and play on the same field with him is gonna be a blessing for sure.” Says the younger McDonald.

For Caden, the captain, being able to leave a legacy that was passed onto him from Kyava Tezino at the linebacker spot is paramount. But it is not something that he will just hand over to younger brother, Cooper, just because his last name is McDonald. And Cooper is well aware of it.

“I’m really excited about it, first of all, I’m the new guy around here. So, I wanna prove myself to the coaches because I know just cause I’m Cade’s younger brother, I know nothing is gonna be handed to me and I want to work for everything that possibly will come to me. Just do my job, and just play the way I play and see what else can happen, follow in his footsteps and take the reins from him when he leaves.

For three days in the books of the 2022 Aztecs football spring camp, we know there will be new starters at both special teams positions, multiple offensive line positions, at the running back positions, and of course the quarterback positions.

While March Madness will need another week to officially begin in the rest of the country—on Montezuma Mesa it’s already there. Except this kind is on the football field and doesn’t bring together new friends—it shapes a new Aztec brotherhood.

Watch Coach Brady Hoke’s entire 3/2/22 presser via goaztecs.

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