Three numbers stand apart when surveying the field at the Northern Red Knights senior football practice on Thursday: eight, 30 and 83.
Each member of the trio is noticeably small in stature and carries himself with an air of prominence.
Two of the three run back-to-back routes in a pass-catching drill, while the third takes part in a defensive exercise down field.
They are the diminutive, yet scrappy Meloff brothers – identical triplets.
“I have a hard time telling them apart,” head coach Dan Dominico told the Toronto Observer after practice. “But they’ve never let their size be a hindrance to what they do [on the field]. They are very skilled, and have very good technique.”
Joel (No. 8 ) is arguably the most advanced football wise, as the 17-year-old wideout was the only starter of the bunch a season ago.
Andrew (No. 30) plays on defence and has expectations of making a big splash in the secondary this year.
And Quentin (No. 83) accompanies Joel in the receiving corps, while additionally acting as a backup quarterback.
The trio is in their fourth year as members of the Northern Secondary football program, and as Grade 12 students, with ample talent, they will play an integral role for a program with high expectations for 2011.
“We’re looking at them to be leaders this year,” said Dominico, who has been behind the whistle for Northern since 1994. “I expect all of them will get a fair amount of playing time this season.”
Adam Adeboboye, a 17-year-old running back, is closest with Joel because of their class schedules, but speaks highly of all three when quizzed on his schoolmates.
“Quentin is more reserved, Joel is in the middle and Andrew is the most outgoing,” said Adeboboye, who estimates the three to be no taller than five foot four. “They talk a lot about football; they love football.”
They don’t just care for the game; they eat, sleep and breathe it.
When they aren’t suiting up for the Red Knights, or doing homework – Dominico believes them all to be good students – they are ingesting the pigskin in any format they can find.
Joel and Andrew prefer the NCAA game, the prior cheering for the Ohio State Buckeyes and the latter favouring the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, while Quentin adores the NFL’s New Orleans Saints.\
Other hobbies are well in line with the average teenager, including video games, snowboarding and hockey – well, until they gave it up to focus on football.
As the acclaimed author Mark Twain once said, it’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.
“I’m 140 pounds and I’m short,” Quentin said confidently, “but I don’t feel like I’m the smallest guy on the field.”
Hearing incendiary remarks from opposing players is the norm for the Meloffs, as the brothers claim to have heard it all.
Though they surely hear the trash talk, the brothers seem too resilient to listen to any of the pessimists.
“I’ve been called everything,” Quentin recalled in a post-practice chat. “Kids will say, ‘Oh, what do you weigh 100 pounds?’ ”
“It puts a chip on your shoulder knowing your going against bigger guys,” Joel added. “You know you have to give it 100 per cent.”
This past summer, the three took measures to back up their brashness, hitting the weight room to bulk up before their final high school campaign.
But as kids tend to do, the Meloffs also know how to joke around – Andrew and Quentin label Joel “the smart one,” and the three make goofy faces for the post-interview photo op.
Quentin says that their close friends, and students who’ve known them since Grade 9, can easily tell them apart, but some of their other peers certainly cannot.
Fitting, because as the Meloffs head for the showers, I’m already at a loss as to which is Joel, Andrew or Quentin.