This article originally appeared in ZU News.
Josiah and Jonathan Thropay were raised in a different way than most people. Their father would often wake them up at 6:30 a.m. to run 2.5 miles followed by push-ups, sit-ups and singing lessons, all before school started.
Fast forward to today, and the Thropay brothers are both seniors at APU who lead the football team both on and off the field.
“They’re leaders on the team. Every player to them matters,” head coach Victor Santa Cruz said. “They hold guys accountable. They’re also trying to relate and communicate to all of the team.”
This is Jonathan’s fourth year playing for the Cougars. He is an outside linebacker who was named first team all-GNAC last year. As a junior in 2015, he led the team with 81 tackles, including seven for a loss and a sack.
Despite the big numbers, Santa Cruz is quick to point out that it’s the brothers’ behind-the-scenes work that really makes the difference.
“The thing that stands out is their love for the team and their love for the game,” Santa Cruz said. “It shows up in the off-season in how you practice, how you prepare. They go the distance when it comes to practice and watching film.”
Josiah transferred from Mt. San Antonio College his sophomore year. In 2015, he led the Cougars’ tight ends with 12 catches for 209 yards and two touchdowns.
“I’m here, number one, because of Jonathan and two, because of what was happening here at APU. It’s been one of the best decisions of my life,” Josiah said.
Although they’re both seniors on the team, Josiah is actually 11 months older than Jonathan. When Josiah transferred, it was the first time they had ever played together on the same team.
“He’s my brother, my best friend,” Josiah said. “I don’t view him at all as a teammate. We’re each other’s biggest fans. He gives me added motivation to be great. Aside from personal ambition and wanting to do good for the team, I want to be good for him, too.”
Both brothers are constantly watching each other. When one is on the sideline, the other is on the field playing.
“When he makes a play, does something good or something bad, it affects me way more than if someone else on the field was to mess up,” Jonathan said. “Or, if [Josiah] makes a big play, I’m more excited than if another teammate was to make a good play.”
The Thropay brothers have come a long way since they started playing football at APU. Jonathan remembers the days when he would be late to practice and even fall asleep at team meetings.
“There was a lot of immaturity I was dealing with,” Jonathan said. “They hold you to that much higher of a standard here than high school football. That’s where I’ve grown the most.”
Josiah has also grown with the help of his coaches at APU.
“For me, it’s been a mental growth,” he said. “The coaches have definitely challenged me and said things to make me go work on myself. I’m able to process and not get down on myself—[I’ve learned how] to conquer any situation.”
Although the coaches have helped the Thropay brothers throughout the last three years, there is one mentor that set the example for them long before they ended up at APU.
“The person I’ve looked up to most my whole life is my dad,” Jonathan said.
“He’s the one who taught me my work ethic. He created that desire in us to be the best we could, be the strongest we could be.”
Their father, Reuben Thropay, was a walk-on for the UCLA football team in college, and worked hard to instill personal values and a love for sports in his sons.
“He put us in this thing called Care Youth League. That’s where we got introduced to football, basketball, baseball and soccer,” Josiah said. “Growing up, we fell in love with football.”
Reuben Thropay sang devotionals with his sons when they were young and ran with them before school started, four days a week.
“Everything I believe a man should embody, as far as characteristics, is what my dad is,” Josiah said. “He never let us quit something. He always said you’re gonna finish the season. It’s always played out for the better for us…He molded us into the people we are today.”
Josiah Thropay will graduate this year with a degree in accounting and plans to become a Certified Public Accountant.
Jonathan Thropay, a physics major, plans to get a job at his uncle’s business, a company that deals with medical physics. But before he does that, he plans to take a year to serve as a missionary in another country.
While it’s going to be hard losing the Thropay brothers, Santa Cruz is confident the team will continue to succeed.
“It’s always hard replacing players like that,” Santa Cruz said. “I think we will fare well because they are setting an example, a legacy that’s going to be passed on.”
Not only are the Thropays leaders on the team, but they also helped recruit the team’s starting runningback, Kurt Scoby.
“I’ve known the Thropays all my life. I went to church with them,” Scoby said. “I’m stoked that I transferred. They helped me out with this great decision.”
Scoby transferred from Fresno State University where he redshirted his freshmen year. Scoby led the team last year with 1,167 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. He was named first team all-GNAC in 2015 as a freshman.
“Jonathan told me that my mindset would be completely different than it used to be. I was starstruck,” Scoby said. “They’re great people. They love you and care about you, not just the football part of you. They always want the best for the person ahead of them, not just themselves.”
The Cougars are currently 5-0 this season for the first time since 2002, and for the fifth time in school program history. APU is currently ranked 10th in the AFCA Division II Top-25 coaches poll, which is a first in program history since entering NCAA Division II football. They will look to continue their success on the road on Oct. 8 against Colorado School of Mines.