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The Satlzgaber twins give Byron Center opponents twice the trouble

By: Lenny Padilla, August 31, 2016, 9:01 pm

Byron Center – Byron Center football coach Marc Cisco thought he could tell identical twins Zac and Josh Saltzgaber apart.

After all, he’s known the brothers since they were little.

But it was a relief to the entire coaching staff when Zac showed up at summer workouts with longer hair so they could finally differentiate the two.

“When they were younger, one (Zac) wore black shoes and one wore white shoes. So that’s how I told them apart,” Cisco said. “But now they have different haircuts, so it’s easier. Finally.”

The twins are used to it.

“It usually takes people about two weeks to figure out who is who,” Zac said.

But it only takes a few snaps for opposing teams to be introduced to the Saltzgabers. Zac starts at quarterback and Josh at running back, and they wreak havoc on the defense most weeks.

In last week’s opener Byron Center defeated Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, 49-35. Zac passed for 117 yards and two touchdowns, and had 129 yards rushing with two more touchdowns. Josh rushed for 117 yards.

“Those guys are very good, skilled players,” F.H. Northern coach Matt Moffet said. “Every time they got a carry or a throw, you hear their names (on the PA). Coming in, we knew they were two very good players.”

The twins are seniors and both stand 5-foot-10. Josh weighs 195 pounds, Zac 184.

Byron Center hosts Middleville-Thornapple-Kellogg (0-1) on Thursday in a O-K Conference crossover. Last season the Bulldogs were 8-3 as they defeated Portage Central in a pre-district before falling to Lowell in a Division 2 district final.


Different at the start


When Kerri Saltzgaber was pregnant in the spring of 1998 she didn’t anticipate giving birth to twins. And her and her husband Doug did not want to know the gender ahead of time.

“I was very surprised that I was having twins. I thought they were girls,” Kerri said laughing. “I didn’t know what they were. But I was sure they were girls.”

Early on it was easy to tell the boys apart.

“Right away, Zac was two pounds heavier than Josh,” Kerri said. “So we had a big baby and a little baby. By the time they were two they caught up to each other. Then they were really hard to tell apart for a long time. They still are. We tell them apart by their walk and their haircut.”
Their appearance isn’t the only similar trait.

“They have the same friends,” she said. “They get the same grades in school. They are within points of each other on the SAT. It’s just really strange.”

The twins are used to people not being able to tell them apart. Their parents are easily fooled as well.

“It’s typical. Especially with my dad,” Zac said. “Sometimes we give our parents a hard time because they can’t figure it out. We’re like ‘we’ve been around 18 years, how can you not get it right by now?’”

The twins have always been active so roughhousing around the house is pretty common.

“We don’t usually get in fights that often, but we like screwing around and wrestling,” Zac said. “We’d box sometimes; put on the boxing gloves and beat the tar out of each other.”

When they got bored beating up on each other, they would take it out on older brother, Jeff. There’s strength in numbers so the twins usually would win out.

“There’s two of us,” Zac said with a wry smile. “So it’s two against one. So he had his hands full most of the time.”

Zac is the more outgoing one, Kerri said, and Josh usually defers to his brother.

“The biggest difference is that Joshua is more of a quiet leader and Zac is more outgoing,” she said. “It fits their positions.”

The twins play both offense and defense. Zac plays safety, Josh is a defensive end. Josh might be the quiet one but when he puts a hit on someone, it creates noise.

“For me, I like defense better,” Josh said. “It shows how tough you are, mentally and physically.”

The twins play baseball and basketball and are hoping to play football in college. They’ve had coaches talk to them but they have yet to receive a scholarship offers.

If they don’t, they have a backup plan.

“We’ve talked to some coaches, but nothing serious,” Josh said. “If not, we’d like to go to Notre Dame. The big Notre Dame. THE Notre Dame. But we’re pretty set on playing football somewhere.”

Their brother, Jeff, 22, went to Notre Dame College in South Euclid, Ohio, where he was on the swim team for four years.

The twins rarely attempt to pursue the role as pranksters in disguising which one is which. The temptation is there but others catch on quick.

“We haven’t really switched it up that much,” Josh said. “We’ve tried and people laugh (when they find out). The other kids usually know who we are. But the teachers had no idea early on. So we switched classes (in eighth grade). We were in there for half the hour. Then everyone starts laughing and the teacher’s like, what’s going on? They just pointed at me because I was sitting in (Zac’s) chair. And someone yelled, that’s not Zac!”  

Cisco, who is in his first year as head coach after being a long-time assistant, said the Saltzgabers might be the most polite players he’s ever met.

“They don’t say anything in practice,” he said. “They just go about their business to the best of their ability. But, they shake every coach’s hand before they leave practice every day. They do it after every meeting. They go find referees and do it after games, too.”

But when the whistle blows, its double trouble for the other team.