Jack Bredeson remembers the routine perfectly.
Every Saturday morning in the fall, his high school football team would wake up sore from the previous night’s game and go straight into a two-hour lifting session at 8 a.m. Arrowhead High School in Hartland, Wis. was 30 minutes west of Milwaukee. Or, more importantly, an hour east of Madison.
Because seven Saturdays in the fall, that’s where Jack and Ben Bredeson raced to.
As soon as lifts ended, half of their team changed as fast as possible, piled in a car and sped up to Camp Randall in time for 11 a.m. kickoff.
“That’s just what you did,” Jack said. “You went to Badger football games, you grew up Badger fans. It was awesome.”
So before Ben became a two-time All-Big Ten left guard at Michigan and before Jack’s four years as pitcher for the Wolverines’ baseball team, Camp Randall was the dream.
The conscious part was that they would play football together — Ben on the offensive line and Jack at defensive end, where he played in high school. Wisconsin was just the world they came from.
“All Ben and I knew growing up was Wisconsin, Wisconsin, Wisconsin,” Jack said.
Five years later, Ben is careful to note that coming to Michigan was not a joint decision. Going to college together was a childhood dream, but once the recruiting process became real, that dream dissipated, with each of their personal paths leading them to Michigan separately.
“Everyone likes to make it this big deal in my recruiting process,” Ben told The Daily this week. “It really was not. He was excited for me to come here cause it’s where I wanted to come. And when I say that, a lot of people don’t believe me. But we were raised by the same parents, with the same values, in the same house and it’s really no surprise that we both value the things that Michigan has to offer.”
Still, playing sports together was an integral part of each of their childhoods, even before football entered both of their lives in eighth grade. Their dad, Mike, played center at Illinois State in the 1980s, but didn’t see the point of his sons playing football before middle school.
So instead, Mike used his skills as a home builder to build a full hockey rink in the Bredesons’ backyard, complete with full boards and everything. On their local travel team, Ben played up a year so he could be in Jack’s age group.
“Those are probably the best memories of childhood sports we have is just messing around on the ice rink,” Jack said. “You go down there every night until your toes are frozen and you come back.”
The timing worked out perfectly. Ben got too big for hockey right as football gave him and Jack another sport to play together.
Once Ben grew out of hockey, football became his primary focus. For a time, Jack thought it would be his too. With their positions naturally lining up across from each other every day at practice, fights between the two became so common that coaches banned them from matching up with one another.
“Lot of cheap shots,” Jack said. “Lot of awkward rides home from practice.”
But sometime mid-way through Jack’s junior year of high school, he decided he would be playing baseball in college. And with that decision, a pair of dreams died. The brothers wouldn’t be football teammates in college, as they had always talked about. And they wouldn’t be going to Wisconsin together, as they had always assumed, because the Badgers don’t have a baseball program.
For a year, as Ben — a heavily-recruited four-star — learned about college football beyond Camp Randall, it seemed that Jack’s senior year of high school would be their last together.
Then came Jim Harbaugh.
“Once they made the Harbaugh signing (in Ben’s junior) year of high school, that’s when things really changed and where Michigan kinda blew up the charts for him and passed a couple other schools,” Jack said. “So once that happened, I guess the dream and hope of going to school together became more of a reality again.”
Before Ben even made his official visit in November of his senior year, he was committed. The official visit was a mere formality, mixed in with casual trips down to Ann Arbor to see Jack and go to games.
“When I came out and saw Jack, just his personality, he likes to run the show,” Ben said. “So he was taking us all around Ann Arbor showing us — he’d been here for two months but it seemed like he’d been here for two years. And he did an outstanding job and made me excited and reassured my choice of coming here.”
For the next three years, neither missed a home game for the other. If the baseball team was at home, Ben would finish practice, walk across the parking lot from Schembechler Hall to Ray Fisher Stadium and watch his brother pitch.
Last summer required a slightly longer trip — 10 hours to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. Between summer classes and offseason workouts, Ben only made it out for the last two games, but as he drove across Illinois and Iowa, emotions took over.
“It’s the last baseball game he’ll ever play and just how many hundreds of baseball games I’ve gone to see him play,” Ben said. “And I was going to go to the final one. It was just a very emotional moment for both of us and just kind of surreal. Like it really hadn’t hit me at the time that that chapter of his life was going to be over. But I’m happy that I was able to catch every single one that I did.”
Jack’s back home now in Hartland, catching up on lost time with their younger brother, Max. This weekend, the whole family will pack into Camp Randall, just as Jack and Ben did in high school, only wearing different colors.
By now, Ben’s well-versed in talking about Wisconsin. Every year around this time, the inevitable questions arise about his past and the decision that took him across Lake Michigan. But as he talks about Jack and what Michigan gave them, his voice still cracks a little, even four years later.
“Those last three years when he and I were here were the best three years of my life.”