By Bill Renje
McDONOUGH, Ga. — You learn a lot from spending time around a school and a sports program.
What’s stood out the most to me in being around the Warhawk football program is that head coach Morris Starr is building a solid program, from the ground up, on and off the field, as he enters his third season at Henry County High. In his first two years, Starr has compiled a 7-14 record with a Class AAA playoff appearance in his first season at the helm. And from there, he’ll seek to continue to build upon senior leaders like twin brothers Dominique and Daniel Joseph as they continue to grow as examples on the team, in the classroom and within the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) club.
The three-sport athletes — football, basketball and track — have clearly stood out for their athletic physique – Dom is 6-foot-2, 190, while Dan is 6-foot-1, 185. Rangy wideouts, they’ve stood out for their abilities to stretch opposing defenses in football. On the court, it’s not uncommon to see either brother grab a basketball off the rim defensively while gracefully running the offense 94-feet in the other direction.
As coach Starr says, “they’re do-everything guys”. In addition to their work as receivers, Dom also plays quarterback. And on defense, Dom will be playing cornerback along with Dan at safety.
But more than athletics, I’ve seen them grow into leaders as they’ve channeled their energy and vocal leadership ability into a positive direction that only comes with age and maturity.
Earlier this week, I spoke with Coach Starr and the twins about leadership, expectations, role models, faith influences and life after high school:
RENJE: What are your expectations for Dom and Dan this year?
Coach Starr – “They are both very good athletes and they need to play to the level of their potential. Their focus needs to be on making the plays they’re supposed to make. If they do that, they’ll have very good seasons for us this year.”
The twins experienced a transition after relocating with their family from Burlington, NJ to McDonough last year. After playing their freshman and sophomore seasons for Burlington Township, last season was their first as Warhawks.
RENJE: Where have they improved since last year?
Coach Starr – “Attitude. When they got here last year and everything being new to them, I’m sure they were trying to make their mark. Now they’re not trying so hard to impress people. They’re understanding what their coaches are asking them to do in the schemes of what we’re trying to do offensively and defensively in being better football players and teammates.”
RENJE: In the school, what type of tone do you see those guys setting?
Coach Starr – “They do a good job around the school. When I speak to their teachers, they’re well liked. The thing I need for them to do this year a little bit better than what they did last year is just maturing if a class isn’t going the way it’s supposed to go, just help the teacher get the class back focused on what they’re supposed to be doing.
The thing I ask of all my seniors and all my football players is don’t be a distraction. Don’t be in the hallways when you’re supposed to be in class. If I get the players doing that, then the whole flow of the school goes better.”
From Coach Starr to their former high school coach in New Jersey to their parents, the Josephs have had no shortage of positive influences in their lives.
RENJE: How do you guys influence each other?
Dan – “We fight a lot (laughing). We’re so hard on each other. We’ll fight over who gets the last spoon in the kitchen. But that really keeps us competitive. We stay connected; we’re friends that are hard on each other, in the weight room and on the field to keep each other on pace.”
Dom – “Oh yeah, we fight all the time. When my mom comes to pick us up, we’ll run to the car and fight over the front seat. Anything we have to do to make each other better or more competitive, that’s what we’re going to do.”
RENJE: Who were your role models growing up?
Dan – “My dad, he was the one that got us into football when we were three-years-old. He was really hard on us, but loved us at the same time. Both him and my mom really kept us on the right track to grow to become gentlemen.”
Dom – “My biggest influence was God because he has a way of keeping you on the right path when you follow him. He’s everything to me and comes first in all I do. And I’m just thankful that he gave me the right parents to keep me on track.
“Our dad with football is like Venus and Serena Williams’ dad with tennis. He always pushed us to be the best. He’d have us up at 5:00 in the morning to throw the ball around the church yard when everyone else is going to parties. So we couldn’t do everything everybody else could do like hang out, stay out late, go out all the time, because first of all, we’re men of God.”
RENJE: Do you have a signature Bible verse?
Dom – “Isaiah 54:17 – no weapon formed against you will prosper…”
Dan – “My favorite verse is on my shoes, James 4:10 – humble yourself upon the Lord and He will exalt you up…”
The twins have received interest from Division I football programs and have had ACC and SEC schools stopping by HCHS to talk to them. Despite that, the Joseph brothers have managed to remain humble and keep a spiritual focus.
RENJE: Talk about the impact that FCA has had on you.
Dan – “FCA, when I first heard about it, I’m not going to lie, I was like, ‘Oh, I just want to go to practice’. I didn’t want to talk to anybody about how to get better grades. But I didn’t know that it was actually a Christian talk about God. But when I found out it was a Christian club and there were students as well as adults talking to us, I was into it. The first couple of weeks (of meeting from 3:30-4 every Thursday) went well, then one Thursday we didn’t have it and I was so mad. FCA has impacted me on how I pray, how I play on the field, and how I started getting my life right from my grades to how I treat my mom.”
Dom – “For me, FCA was like a motivator throughout the week. You’re going through so many different things in your life, and when FCA brings in a speaker to come speak to you, every single time it felt like they were speaking straight to me. It was like God knew what I needed each and every time to motivate me. On Thursday I could go to practice and have my mind right to do what I have to do despite having a rough time during the week.”
RENJE: What are your goals going beyond high school?
Dom – “I want to get either a football or basketball scholarship to any D-1 university. I wanted to go to school to be an athletic trainer. But now I want to pursue music engineering. I love making beats and I love making music. Music is one of the main faces of the world and its always going to be here.”
Dan – “My first goal is also to get a scholarship where I can get a good education and focus on Theology.”
If they keep their hearts and minds focused on Christ, regardless of where they end up, they will be fulfilled in living the abundant life of joy and peace that comes by having a positive impact for God’s kingdom.
Bill is a contributing writer with thecrescentbuzz.com. He’s also on staff with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and a Deacon at Eagles Landing FBC in McDonough, GA. He lives in Locust Grove with his wife Amy and their three children. You can learn more about him at his website www.achosenbullet.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BillRenje.