ROUND ROCK, Texas — Over the past two decades, the ways in which our kids play sports have drastically changed. Gone are the days of care-free pick-up games at the park. In their place? Sports specialization.
According to recent research presented by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, more than 54% of parents are encouraging their children to focus on one sport.
However, identical twins at Cedar Ridge High School are breaking down that barrier one hit and one march at a time.
"Man, I'm really thankful we have them on our team," said Cedar Ridge Head Coach Sam Robinson. "They both start for us on defense. Our defense has been playing well. So, we're lucky."
That Raiders' defense is giving up just 15 points per game. But for Devin and Levi, their game requires extra stretching and some head turns.
"The Jones twins," exclaimed Cedar Ridge senior defensive back Jackson Donohoe. "If y'all don't know, they play trombone during halftime and they're both defensive dogs. Y'all better see them come out."
How about that? Devin and Levi Jones marching to the tune of their own trombones.
"It's not for the weak," Devin and Levi's mother, Stacey Willis, said.
Well, good thing Stacey Willis' twin boys are very strong.
"It takes a lot of effort, and you have to give a lot up, but in the end it's so much fun," said Levi Jones, Cedar Ridge senior linebacker and trombonist.
So much fun despite their hectic schedule.
Between school, band and football, the twins' typical day starts at 6 a.m. and goes until about 8:30 p.m.
"You basically won't sleep until December," said Willis with a laugh. "So, it's a long day at school, and it's a huge commitment."
It's a commitment that's been brewing since sixth grade. That's when Devin and Levi started playing the trombone.
"It's just something we enjoyed doing together that really stuck with us through middle school into high school," said Devin Jones, Cedar Ridge senior defensive lineman and trombonist.
As did football, which started even earlier, at the age of 10.
"We used to play in rec leagues," said Levi Jones. "It was so much fun. Football was a really good sport for us."
But going from middle school to high school, the big question was could they balance both?
"I told them they didn't want to be in the stands watching the football team wishing they were on the field, and vice versa," said Willis. "They didn't want to be on the field listening to the band play in the stands, wishing they were a part of band. So, I told them just to try both freshman year and make your decision from there."
So, they gave it a shot.
When the second quarter ends, the twins quickly rush to replace their gloves, pads, jerseys and cleats with band shoes and a trombone.
"They're breaking stereotypes," added Willis. "You can be the football player and the band player. You can do both."
"It's nice for kids to be able to explore multiple interests and be able to do multiple things, and that's exactly what they do. And they do it with confidence, they do it with grace and they do it with so much talent," Cedar Ridge Director of Bands Dan Musacchio said.
"Just the time and effort that they put into their everyday life; it blows us away," Robinson added.
And the football pants stay put, making for two standout musicians during the marching band's halftime performance.
"Even if a lot of people don't know that we're doing both, just internally knowing that I'm able to participate in marching band and football and do great at both is just something that really makes me happy as an individual and makes me happy that we both get to do it together," Devin Jones said.
"You can do more than one thing, and the high school experience should be that way," Robinson said.
"It's just inspiring," added Musacchio. "When I go down to the middle school and I talk to those students there, and they ask, 'Can I do athletics and can I do band?' I just love to tell the story of Devin and Levi and how successful they are at both of those."
"It's really physical on your body," explained Willis. "Both marching and football, but it's worth it for them. It's what they want to do, so you're just supporting what they want to do."
Because for Devin and Levi Jones, gameday means walking side-by-side and through the tunnel to wherever life takes them.
"He's been my best friend since we were born, and just knowing that in the future, I'm going to have these memories with him is something that is really special and close to my heart," Devin Jones said.
The Jones twins told KVUE they hope to play football and study marine biology in college. They added that they'll always have music and, time permitting, hope to play in a jazz band at college, too.
PEOPLE ARE ALSO READING: