PHOENIX – Brophy College Prep, once a bright light on the high school football scene, is in the midst of a dismal season, its 1-6 record indicative of the program’s downswing. But the future is bright for the Broncos, thanks to a star-studded freshman football team, where a group of five have NFL lineage in their blood.
The 6-1 freshman Broncos feature five players whose fathers played in the NFL. Coach Scott Heideman believes these family legacies set players apart so they can elevate their teammates to success.
“It’s great to have those kinds of leaders on the team who just lead by example,” Heideman said. “Their friends and their peers see all of the good work that they’re doing, so it’s pretty easy to join that train.”
Growing up as sons of professional football players, these athletes have a unique motivation to continue the family tradition while making their own mark on the field. Bastian Vanden Bosch, who plays defensive end and tight end, and his brother Case Vanden Bosch, who plays quarterback, are Brophy teammates. Following in the footsteps of their father, Kyle Vanden Bosch, who played defensive end at the University of Nebraska and retired from the NFL as a three-time Pro Bowler after more than 10 years, the brothers have already received offers from the University of Nebraska.
Bastian’s journey to Brophy has already garnered national attention. As a freshman, he has received two offers from the University of Nebraska, the University of Arizona and the University of Oregon.
“We all get that love of football from our fathers and family, but I also feel like we are our own players and try to be ourselves,” Bastian said.
James Pike, the team’s safety and punter, has a different connection to the NFL. Pike’s mother, Nicole Bidwill, is the vice president of the Arizona Cardinals. Pike’s uncle, Michael Bidwill, is the team’s owner. However, Pike said he doesn’t let the family name affect his mindset.
“We don’t really think about who our parents are or what our bloodline is, it’s just us,” Pike said.
Besides the Bidwill family, Larry Fitzgerald, an 11-time Pro Bowler, is another household name for Cardinals fans. The 17-year Cardinals veteran is still active in the Valley and enrolled his son, Devin, at Brophy, following in his father’s footsteps as a wide receiver.
“It’s kinda cool having a little family of us like that, but we don’t talk about our dads,” Devin said. “Usually, we just stick to playing with the team and working hard.”
The teamwork and long hours have paid off for other Broncos players such as Daylen Sharper, the team’s wide receiver and defensive back. His father, Darren Shaper, played 14 seasons in the league, spending time with the Packers, Vikings and Saints.
Despite not playing on a football team until eighth grade, Daylen has received an offer from the University of Oregon. He hopes to one day receive a Hall of Fame nomination like his father.
Though the high expectations may seem like a lot to handle, Heideman recognizes that children who are immersed in the professional sports environment from a young age are more prepared for the challenges ahead.
“That’s something that in a team sport that you can’t preach enough,” Heideman said. “That transcends kids playing football for the first year versus kids who’ve been watching their parents play football for many years.”