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The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian


Senior Janke twins propel Jacks to No. 1 seed in FCS
Evan Patzwald
Jaxon (10) and Jadon (1) walk with their parents during a celebration honoring the seniors on the football team before their game against Missouri State at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023.

Heading into last season’s national championship game, Jackrabbit nation had many questions surrounding the careers of veteran players on the team.

Two of the notable players that hadn’t made an announcement yet were Jadon and Jaxon Janke. The Madison, South Dakota natives have been the team’s top receivers each of the last three seasons and hadn’t made a decision as to if they were to return for the 2023 season.

“The coaches were kind of urging us to make a decision beforehand,” Jaxon said. “So, it could take weight off our own shoulders, and kind of just help us just focus on the task at hand which was winning a national championship.”

While some players elected against using their final year of eligibility, either due to graduation, injuries, or to even play at the next level. The Janke twins, while having talks with NFL scouts, made the decision to have one last ride as members of Jackrabbit football.

“We got some feedback from scouts, and they told us if we want to come back to college, the only thing we can do is boost our draft stock,” Jaxon said. “Because we were kind of fringe guys, might get drafted, priority free agents, so we didn’t know for sure what that was all going to look like based off scouting reports and stuff. The biggest thing we took out of it was we’ve got a great team coming back, all we can do is get better and try and up our stock.”

While it’s normally rare to see players play beyond a fifth year, the Covid-19 pandemic gave players the opportunity for a sixth season regardless of if their team played during the 2020 season or not.

When it comes to making that type of announcement, players will often take to social media to share their decision. But for the Janke twins, they ended up taking a different approach on announcing what their future will hold.

Down in Frisco, TX following the 45-21 victory over rival North Dakota State in the national championship, the Janke twins had a postgame interview live on Dakota News Now where they announced they were coming back for one more year.

“We actually didn’t even plan on announcing it after the game, it was kind of a spur of the moment thing,” Jadon said. “We were feeling on top of the world and thought ‘you know what, what the heck, might as well do it live on-air’ so it turned out pretty cool.”

For the past three seasons, Jaxon and Jadon have been the most productive targets for quarterback Mark Gronowski to throw to, including a combined 111 catches, 1,631 yards, and 17 touchdowns last season alone.

When the Jankes made that decision to return this season, Gronowski was excited to have another year with them by his side.

“I was really excited, there was kind of some questions in the wide receiver room when they were planning on leaving,” Gronowski said. “But when they decided to come back, I was really excited because those are guys that you just got to throw the ball up to them and they’re going to make plays, and they’re great to have on the team.”

As a quarterback, having a close relationship with the wide receivers is important when it comes to a team’s success, which is why Gronowski was so eager to have them back, even playing a role in the process to convince them to stay.

“I’ve been roommates with them for the past two years, so I mean all of last year we would kind of talk about it as a house,” Gronowski said. “I kept trying to convince them to stay, because it would help me, help the team and allow us to be more successful, and I was glad they ended up staying.”

Having the Jankes back is helping in more ways than one, as they have helped the Jackrabbits cap off their first undefeated regular season in school history and are now looking towards the playoffs where they plan to make another trip to Frisco.

While Jaxon and Jadon have each been dealing with injuries this season that has cost them one and two games respectively, that hasn’t stopped them from combining for 75 catches, 1,279 yards, and 12 touchdowns during the regular season.

Year after year, the brothers continue to put up big numbers, which has pushed them towards some of the all-time career receiving statistics in school history.

Jaxon is currently second in career receptions, third in career receiving yards, and fourth in career receiving touchdowns, while Jadon is tied for eighth, seventh, and tied for third in those categories respectively.

And while the stats from a fan’s perspective seem glamorous and exciting, Jadon and Jaxon are focused on team success first.

“I would say coming into this season, I knew that Jaxon had some opportunities to really stamp his name up there at the front of some records, and for me I never really have looked into any of the record books, I didn’t really care if I’m being honest with you,” Jadon said. “But I think that speaks to our character. We’re not really chasing individual goals, more so the betterment for the team and a national championship means way more to us.”

From the time they decided to walk-on at South Dakota State to the time they step off the field for the last time as Jackrabbits, the twins have grown in many ways throughout their career. Offensive coordinator Zach Lujan talks about the growth he has seen from the Jankes since he was first hired back in 2018.

“When both of them first got to South Dakota State they were just very gifted athletes, didn’t know anything about playing the receiver position, for instance Jadon was a high school running back,” coach Lujan said. “Really they’ve just become students of the game, in terms of honing in on their craft, focusing on the little details that’s letting them have the success they have now.”

Coming in as freshman looking at others for leadership and guidance, they find themselves on the other side of that relationship, helping with both the younger players and first-year wide receiver coach Jake Menage.

“I would say we kind of waited a little bit too long to take over that leadership role, I wouldn’t say this year but earlier in our careers I think we could have taken that step right away,” Jadon said. “Being here for as long as we have, we knew it was our job to really help Jake Menage out, he put [Griffin] Wilde next to me in the meeting room, and Grahm [Goering] next to Jaxon. We know everything so well and our confidence really rubs off on the younger guys which is really cool to see.”

As the Jankes look towards potentially their final four games of their college career, they reflect on what they’ll miss most during their career playing for the yellow and blue.

“I mean, scoring touchdowns is pretty fun, I’ll say that,” Jadon said jokingly. “But I think it’s deeper than that, it’s deeper than catches, yards, touchdowns, I think it’s the brotherhood of playing here. Coach Stiegelmeier really infected it into our daily routines of ‘this is a family, no one is against each other, everyone wants the best for each other’ and I think that’s why we’re doing the things that we’re doing right now is because of the brotherhood here, and the love we have for each other.”

While we are witnessing the conclusion of arguably the best wide reciever duo in school history, the Jankes have their eyes set on playing at the next level.

“Our plan is to start training right when the season is done, which hopefully is in January after the national championship,” Jaxon said. “Then depending on any senior bowl invites, that is the goal to train for the NFL and take football as far as it will take us.”

There is interest from NFL teams regarding the Janke twins, and they hope to hear their name’s called come next April.

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About the Contributor
Evan Patzwald
Evan Patzwald, Design Editor
Design Editor Evan Patzwald is a senior advertising major from Sioux Falls. He has minors in journalism, graphic design and social media.

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