By nature, offensive linemen share a special connection. When they’re twin brothers, even more so.
But in the case of Jackson and Jordan Leech, seniors on the Steilacoom High School football team, the bond has been strengthened by personal adversity.
The two of them have been reliable blockers for the Sentinels – Jackson (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) at left guard and Jordan (6-2, 215) at right guard – for the past two seasons.
The fact they were able to play together is an accomplishment in itself.
In the summer of 2010, the Leech brothers were riding personal watercrafts on Hood Canal when they crashed into each other.
The impact left Jordan injured. Not only did his right quadriceps nearly detach from his leg, he suffered severe damage to the fingertip of his right ring finger.
Jordan tried having the fingertip surgically repaired, but doctors could not save it. He had the top one-third of his finger amputated.
“There wasn’t enough tissue to save it,” Jordan said.
The leg damage was less severe, and did not require surgery.
“The quad bothered me for a month or two afterward,” he said.
The finger injury kept Jordan out until the final three games of the 2010 season. When he returned, he played linebacker and fullback – with his hand wrapped.
Jackson played that entire season, but weeks after it ended he was wrestling a varsity match when an opponent “scorpioned” him into the mat.
“I felt a sharp crack,” Jackson said.
A vertebra in his lower back (L5) cracked in two places. Fortunately, most of the damage was done near the hip flexor and not along the spine.
“It was an old injury I had as a kid playing football,” Jackson said. “I had back pain growing up … and (the vertebra) completely shattered again.”
But after four months off and three months of physical therapy to strengthen the core muscles around that part of the back, Jackson was ready for spring ball. He has not missed a varsity football game since.
“You can just see how much they motivate each other” Steilacoom coach Brian Koch said. “Both (Jackson and Jordan) were pushing each other to get better, to use what happened as a motivation to make them not only better players, but I think it made them better leaders as well.
“I think it gave both of them a chance to appreciate just how important it is to (have) a chance to play this game, and I think if you asked them they would say that they have a newfound appreciation for the game.”
Last season, both were recognized by the coaches around the SPSL 2A for their good play. Jordan was voted to the second team as a linebacker, and Jackson was an honorable-mention pick.
Both were also selected team captains in 2012.
“I just can’t say enough about how much desire they had to get back into football shape” said Koch, who was named the SPSL 2A coach of the year in 2011. “It would have been so easy for two teenagers to have gotten lazy and called it a lost year, but neither one did. They both wanted to help Steilacoom win an SPSL championship, and that’s our goal this year.”