Seeing double: Janke twins bring family to football



South Dakota State redshirt freshman and Madison, South Dakota, native Jaxon Janke (10, with football) runs through would-be tacklers with the help of several escorts, including twin brother Jadon (9), on a 77-yard punt return touchdown Sept. 7 against Long Island. After appearing in just seven combined games in 2018, Jadon and Jaxon, who play wide receiver, are seeing regular playing time in 2019.

Landon Dierks, Sports Editor


It’s been a core value of the South Dakota State football program under head coach John Stiegelmeier for 23 seasons, but it holds extra meaning for a pair of redshirt freshmen on the 2019 roster.

Jadon and Jaxon Janke, twin brothers from Madison, South Dakota, are three games into their first full season in uniform for the Jackrabbits, but they might not have made it this far without each other.

While it may seem unique to others, “it’s normal” being a twin according to Jaxon. Jadon agrees, taking the sentiment one step further.

“I think our relationship could be described just like any friendship,” said Jadon, who’s a whole 15 minutes older than Jaxon. “Being twins doesn’t play a huge role. We’re just brothers. With football, we’re always pushing each other to be better. There’s competition built into everything we’re doing — that’s how we’ve been getting better our whole lives.”

They describe their relationship as love-hate, both expressing how nice it is to have had a best friend since day one, but they admit to annoying one another from time to time.

Jadon can think of one instance from the brothers’ eighth-grade football season that exemplifies their complex relationship. He received a handoff and ran to the side where his brother was blocking — at least that’s what was supposed to happen.

“[Jaxon] missed his block on the cornerback,” Jadon remembers. “As I’m going down, I see him behind me, pitch it to him and he runs for a touchdown. He didn’t do his job for me, but it was still cool.”

While there was a breakdown on that specific play, there weren’t many in the years that followed.

During the final three seasons of their prep careers, Jadon and Jaxon helped Madison High School win back-to-back-to-back state titles in class 11A — a feat that holds special significance for the twins.

“Winning any kind of championship is amazing, but having my twin brother with me the whole time made it a million times better,” Jadon said. “Growing up, our goal was to win a state championship. We were lucky enough to win three. It was an unbelievable experience, and I wouldn’t change anything.”

That desire to share good times with one another has carried over to their collegiate careers, and their relationship is easy for the SDSU coaching staff to see.

“They appear to be best friends, so there’s probably a bit of a rivalry there, but a really, really friendly rivalry — truly a brotherhood and a love for each other,” Stiegelmeier said.

Their brotherly bond is what made Jadon and Jaxon want to pursue collegiate athletics the same way they had approached many other things in life: together.

Both received attention from multiple schools for football and basketball, but made the decision to walk on at SDSU in February 2018. The season that followed proved to be challenging. Neither Jadon nor Jaxon played much during their first season in Brookings, appearing in just three and four games, respectively.

“It’s almost like being injured,” Jaxon said. “With anything that’s holding you back, you just want to be back as soon as you can and continue to play. But sitting out a year helps you get stronger, faster and you learn the playbook better. Honestly, coming up out of high school, it’s such a hard change and it’s very rare to see true freshmen picking everything up right away and making a big impact.”

But this season has been different.

Jadon is a starter on special teams, and Jaxon sees regular reps as a wide receiver and starts at punt returner.

One of the team’s highlights at this point in the season belongs to Jaxon. Against Long Island on Sept. 7, he watched the ball bounce three times before fielding it and racing 77 yards for a touchdown — and Jadon was right there with him.

“I was just holding my block and all of a sudden I see Jaxon run right past me,” Jadon recalls. “I was like, ‘Oh s—, there he goes.’ So I just tried sprinting in front and helping him. Seeing him get into the endzone — it was a crazy play and he’s been doing it his whole career, so it was nothing new to me.”

Perhaps Jacks fans should get used to seeing more highlight-reel plays from Nos. 9 and 10 in yellow and blue.

Playing behind All-American and All-Missouri Valley Football Conference talents Cade Johnson and Adam Anderson has prevented the young pair from seeing a lot of time on the field together early in their careers. However, as older receivers graduate and the twins continue to improve, Jadon and Jaxon should see their roles increase.

“We really felt that when they honed in on football we thought they would explode in terms of ability,” Stiegelmeier said. “They’re just on the cusp of that whole thing … I think the future is really, really bright.”



Assistant sports editor Colton Prince contributed to this story.