Brothers in the Backfield

Best friends and brothers Zach and Prescott Line have never played on a team together. That will change next year when Prescott, a three-star running back who committed to SMU back in April, gets to campus. The two are excited to get the chance to be in the same city, learn from each other and play a little golf.

Out of nowhere breaks a full-fledged wrestling match between Zach and Prescott Line. It starts in the garage of their home in Northern Michigan and works its way up over the neighbor's lawn.

Two 6-foot-1, 230-pound men going at each other with huge smiles on their faces.

"Of course their mother is screaming, ‘Stop them!' but I mean, are you going to get in front of that freight train? I'd be dead," said Joe Line, Zach and Prescott's father. "But the whole time they're doing it, they're laughing. Both guys realize that it's fun and at anytime they don't think it's fun, they'll disengage."

The Line brothers are competitors in every sense of the word and that's how it s always been.

"They go at each other out of nowhere, but it ends just as quickly and they're the best of friends again," Joe said.

Zach, who just this last weekend breached the 1,000-yard mark in rushing yards for the second year in a row, leads Conference USA and is ranked eighth in the nation averaging 121 yards per game. He is also tied with Alabama standout and Heisman candidate Trent Richardson with 17 rushing touchdowns, the fifth most in the country.

Prescott is Zach's younger brother. He's a senior at Oxford Area Senior High School in Michigan and has been committed to SMU since April. He has racked up over 2,500 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns so far this season. In one game, he had 48 carries for 391 yards and is averaging over 260 ypg.

And he plays linebacker, too. He gets rest when special teams takes the field. He's been nominated for the prestigious award of "Mr. Football Michigan" as a result of his efforts.

Zach also played linebacker in high school, in fact he was all-state. He didn't quite tally as many rushing yards (1,700) or touchdowns (17) his senior year, but he doesn't care because he's proud of his brother.

"He's a baller," Zach said. "And he's humble, too, so it's not like I can be jealous or anything. He's doing really well for himself. I'm real proud of him."

After saying that, a smile crossed Zach's face and he added, "But I punted, too, and was the kick returner, so I was never off the field my senior year."

Prescott is his team's main running back, much like the role Zach plays at SMU. Oxford only throws the ball about 10-12 times and the other tailback on the team only gets about three or four carries per game. So it's basically all Prescott all the time.

"We have a great offensive line this year and we beat last year's state champs," Prescott said, who, like his older brother, is quick to give credit to someone else for his team's success.

Asked about comparing his senior year stats to his brother's, Prescott was humble, and said that the team had a better quarterback when Zach was in high school so they threw the ball more.


The Line brothers are best friends, although when they were growing up, Joe sensed a hint of jealousy in Prescott.

"Early on I think Pres seemed too concerned about being compared to Zach," Joe said. "I think at a football game early on an announcer even said, ‘Zach Line carrying the ball' and it was Pres. But I think he was able to work through that and I think it took realizing what Zach has accomplished to develop that respect.

"But now there's no jealousy. Both are excited to play together. They may tease each other like, ‘Hey I ran for 391 last night, what'd you do?' or, ‘I scored five touchdowns last night, Pres, what'd you do?' But both have great respect for each other.

"And they're at two different levels and both understand that. One is playing both ways and one is playing one way. One is playing at the college level and one is playing at the high school level. So you can't really compare the two."

Once Prescott gets to SMU next year, it will be the first time the two will have ever played on a team together. By the time Prescott got to high school, Zach had already graduated.

"It will be a lot of fun, we're best friends and hang out a lot when I'm home," Zach said. "It will be a good time having him here. I'll get to see how he works and he'll get to see how I work, so we'll push each other."

Zach and Prescott look alike, sound alike and play alike. Defenses are not going to have fun going against them, nor will they be able to bring them down with plain arm tackles. They've got speed, thickness and great instincts. They can find the seams and rip through them. Not to mention they're both knowledgeable students of the game.

Joe says their running styles have evolved much the same way as both went from having about 300 or 400 rushing yards as juniors in high school to well over 1,000 - 1,7000 for Zach and 2,500 and counting for Prescott - as seniors.

"I think we're probably the exact same player, but his stats are better," Zach said. "We're both pretty high scoring and have good leadership qualities."

That said, their personalities differ a bit. Zach is definitely the more outgoing one, while Prescott is more reserved.

"If you walk into a social setting or party environment, Zach will be in a discussion with 25 people," Joe said. "Prescott is a little more shy. He's not traditionally the one to be the life of a party. Prescott quietly, methodically works through things in life. He doesn't allow emotions to get inside of him. Zach plays with a lot more emotions."

Despite his incredible stats in high school, plus the fact that he was an all-state wrestler, Zach was not highly recruited at all. In fact, he might not have played college ball if it wasn't for Bill Keenist, the Detroit Lions' VP of Communications, who had a son that played with Zach in high school. Keenist sent June Jones, a former Lions coach who was at Hawaii at the time, Zach's film and the rest is history.

Prescott was a little more well-known in the recruiting community, but once SMU called, the search was over.

"I'd always brag about him," Zach said. "I'd be like, ‘Hey check out my brother, here's some film.' It wasn't a hard choice once they saw the film.

"Getting him was definitely a steal for us."


Most kids who aspire to play college sports spend their childhoods in camps and tournaments, trying to impress the brass. But not the Line kids. A family of seven (Zach and Prescott have another brother and two sisters), they'd spend their summers in the family cottage on the lake in Northern Michigan, water skiing, fishing and relaxing.

"My wife and I, we've never been the type to put our kids in all sorts of camps and spend the summers lining them up at all these places and forcing them into anything," Joe said. "We've always enjoyed family time."

Zach got a late start to football in seventh grade whereas most kids were playing in organized, competitive leagues way before that. But Zach, and Prescott, liked to control their summers.

Plus they both had such natural athleticism that they were able to compete with anybody once the season started.

"They're just athletes and like to compete," Joe said. "Both were all-state wrestlers, never went to camps the other kids would go to…they were just competitive and just good athletes. Part of that is genetics and support. There wasn't a lot of expectation. We never forced them into anything, they just loved doing it."

A lot of times, kids who go to all those elite camps and tournaments every single summer and holiday break of their childhood get burned out or injured before they can even get to the next level. Joe did not want that to happen to his boys.

"Parents come up and ask me, ‘What did y'all do with Pres and Zach?' and I tell them we let them be kids, let them enjoy life," Joe said. "If they enjoy it, they're going to love it and you're going to see it in the heart of their actions. But if they feel like they have to do it and feel resentful towards it, that also shows."

Joe laments that the one downfall to not pushing Zach and Prescott into those extra camps, etc. was the fact that they didn't get recruited by big-time football programs.

The boys saw their friends and other kids with comparable skill sets get barrels of scholarship offers while they did not. But clearly things have worked out for them in the long run.

"I can't think of another place I'd rather be," Zach said. "I love SMU."


Prescott says he can't wait to get to SMU. He's visited campus multiple times, been to a few games (took in the TCU game this season) and has already developed relationships with some of the coaches and players.

"Awesome campus, awesome players, awesome head coach…it's a great place to be," Prescott said. "The past couple of years, the program has gotten better and better. The coaches are great and know how to treat the players, how to make them feel like a family. SMU is a place you always want to be."

Prescott said getting the offer was just a relief to know that he had a place to go after high school and becoming a Mustang was his first choice.

But what the Line brothers might be most excited about is how they'll spend their Texas "winters."

"Year-round golf," Zach said. "We love golfing together."

Whether it's water skiing at the lake, wrestling across lawns, playing football at SMU or golfing when its 65 degrees in Texas while it's negative temperatures in Michigan, it's a special thing for these best friends and brothers to have the opportunity to do it together.

For more SMU coverage, follow Laken Litman on Twitter!

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