HUNTSVILLE — It isn’t unusual to have siblings who go through the same football program together, even at the same time. But if football-playing twins are something of a rarity, the Hembrees are an even more uncommon occurrence: football-playing triplets.
In fact, brothers Andrew, Daniel and Eli are a first for Scott High School: the school’s first set of triplets to step onto the football field together.
And the family ties actually go a little deeper than that on Friday nights. Their sister, Rachel, is also a member of the school’s cheerleading squad, helping cheer on her brothers on the field.
This season, all four of the Hembree siblings will be seniors (Rachel is the oldest of the group, one year older than her brothers). And no matter what happens this season, they’ve already left their mark on the Highlander football program.
The brothers have factored into the varsity rotation in various capacities since they were just freshmen — which is somewhat unusual in and of itself at the Class 3A level.
“It’s been awesome, just playing together and watching each other grow and having the opportunity to spend every moment we can with each other before we graduate high school,” said Daniel, who starts as a slot receiver on the offensive side of the ball and strong safety on defense.
When it comes to their brotherhood, it extends beyond bloodlines for the Hembrees. In fact, when asked what it’s been like to play football alongside his brothers through the years, Andrew points out that he’s actually played with three of his brothers — Daniel, Eli and Grainger Smith.
The Hembrees and Smith all agree that he is just as close to the Hembrees as if he were a fourth brother. They spend a lot of time hanging out away from the football field, even vacationing together during the summer months. On the football field, they’ve been playing together since they were just five years old and started youth-league football with the Scott County Storm.
Like the Hembrees, Smith is about to begin his senior season. A quarterback-turned-receiver, he’ll start opposite Daniel on both sides of the ball — slot receiver on offense and free safety on defense.
“Playing with my brothers has taught me a lot of discipline,” Andrew said. “We were taught to work and that is what we enjoy doing.”
All four, the Hembrees and Smith, played together at Fairview in middle school, where they won a sectional championship their sixth grade year and finished as sectional runner-up in eighth grade.
The Hembrees are following in their father’s footsteps. Egbert Hembree was a standout running back for the Highlanders in the late 1990s, when the school was enjoying some of the best success in the program’s history. They say they’re compared to their father often.
“It’s been hectic,” Eli said of the 13 years they have spent playing together. “But it’s been great.”
Unfortunately, the Hembrees’ senior season may not have a perfectly-scripted ending. In a storybook setting, the brothers would lead the Highlanders back from last season’s disappointing — by recent standards — season, helping the school return to the state playoffs as they wrap up their high school career. Instead, injuries have set them back. As fall camp neared an end, Daniel was the only healthy one of the three, although Andrew is on his way back from injury and will soon return to the rotation at the wide receiver position. But Eli — who was set to be the Highlanders’ starting tailback and a pivotal figure on the offensive side of the ball as perhaps one of the most dangerous runners in Region 2-3A — will miss most of the season after a summer accident. He’s hoping to be cleared by his doctors in time to return for the second half of the season, but his coach, Josh Terry, isn’t too optimistic.
In the meantime, it goes without saying that Eli will be on the sideline when the Highlanders open the season against Clinton on Friday, cheering on his two — make that three — brothers on the field. Where else would he be? When you’ve played together since you were in kindergarten, football is indeed a brotherhood that binds — even if you aren’t bound by blood.