Follow the leader

If there's one thing Crete (Ill.) Crete-Monee senior Laquon Treadwell wants to leave his brother with when he goes off to college this summer, it's his love for the game. Forget all the pomp and circumstance, the awards and banquets, the rankings and ratings, when Laquon enrolls at school, he wants his younger brother Juawan to remember how hard Laquon needed to work for the sport they both love.

So when Treadwell received his jersey for the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game as a part of the American Family Insurance Selection Tour on Tuesday, and all the cameras were on him once again, he stressed the lesson he hopes his brother takes with him.

"It's a great honor," Laquon said. "I've worked so hard for this since I entered high school, being an All American. It's an honor to be invited to play with these great players."

It is an honor and 14-year-old Juawan knows that. He's excited to take in everything that Laquon goes through, hoping someday he'll have the good fortune to do the same.

Juawan was in the crowd at the high school, watching as his brother -- the No. 4 receiver in the 2013 class -- received his All-American status officially. And as proud as Juawan was of Laquon, he was more excited for three days from now, when Crete-Monee takes on Richton Park (Ill.) Rich South -- and that's something Laquon is proud of.

"This is a big deal, I know that, but a game is more exciting," Juawan said. "Him getting points for his team and winning -- that's important."

Unlike so many others, who just see the recruiting process, the college visits and the All-American jersey, Juawan saw the hard work every day. He watched as his brother started playing around in the front yard, working out every chance he got to perfect his craft. Juawan started playing because of Laquon. Improved himself because of Laquon. Pushed himself because of Laquon.

In Juawan's eighth-grade league, he mimics the moves of his older brother. Sometimes he wears Laquon's gloves. Juawan says it's just because they're stickier than his, that he gets a better handle on the ball, but Laquon knows they're too big for him and that Juawan just thinks the gloves will bring him good luck.

So he says nothing and stands on the sidelines, cheering on the big plays and touchdowns for the eighth-grade team. Younger players come up to him and ask him about the one-handed catches or the college coaches he talks to. And every time they ask how he does it all, he reminds them it's all about working hard and loving the game.

"I know people look up to me because of football," Treadwell said. "Even kids on my Pop Warner team, if they weren't there when I played, I know that if something goes wrong and I was there, my name is the one that would come up. So I make sure I chose the right decisions."

With Laquon on the sidelines, Juawan wants to make sure he stands out on the field. He wants to do justice to the last name that his older brother has made so much of.

And Laquon is proud of him. He sees the hard work and he's quick to praise Juawan's game, quick to mention how the middle school team is undefeated.

He'll offer his consideration of Juawan's hands: good; his feet: fast; his athleticism: incredible. Laquon says that Juawan is more of an athlete at 14 than he was and that he does more on the field in middle school than Juawan did, but he'll always jokingly end it with a smile and something like, "You know, he thinks he's really cool. He's not."

And Juawan is quick to throw it back at his brother, saying that he learned the game himself. He'll joke that his brother was of no help to him.

"It's all me," Juawan says with a laugh. "All right, I steal some of his moves. OK, most of them."

And next fall, when Juawan tries out for the varsity team at Crete-Monee, Laquon will be off playing college football somewhere – his current top five is Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Ole Miss, in no particular order. Chances are he'll be unable to come back to Crete and watch his brother play that much. But there will be phone calls and texts, constant reminders that hard work is necessary and it does pay off.

Laquon has done what he can and hopes the message he left is strong enough that his brother can tread his own path, be better than he was.

But can Juawan be an Under Armour All-American?

"Yeah," Laquon said. "It's not even a question. He has the talent. If he puts in the work, gets that work ethic down, then he can do it."