Evan Reese Jager came into the world on March 8, 1989. Thirteen days later, Bryan Joseph Bulaga arrived.
No one ever could have predicted the athletic greatness they have produced, although it’s safe to say they already have matched anyone’s wildest dreams for success.
Bulaga, who grew up in Crystal Lake and played football at Marian Central, graduated in 2007, played at Iowa and won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers at the age of 21.
Jager, who grew up in Algonquin, also graduated in 2007, turned professional with Nike in 2008 and will run for an Olympic medal in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase this afternoon in London.
Yes, it’s crazy. It’s surreal. And it’s way, way, way cool.
When Bulaga started as the Packers’ right tackle in Super Bowl XLV, he was the youngest player ever to start in football’s biggest game. He also is the first person from McHenry County to play in the Super Bowl.
Jager can become the county’s first Olympic medal winner with a top-three finish in the steeplechase today. That kind of a finish is a very real possibility given Jager’s run of success in six attempts at his “new” event.
Prairie Ridge graduate Amy LePeilbet also might win an Olympic medal with the women’s soccer team. LePeilbet, who graduated in 2000, was a star at Arizona State, which launched her toward the U.S. National Team.
Bulaga’s Marian Central football team was Class 5A state runner-up in 2006, the same fall Jager was winning the IHSA Class AA cross country state championship.
Bulaga was the first lineman ever selected as the Northwest Herald Football Player of the Year and headed to Iowa, where he became a starter a few games into his freshman season. He left after three seasons and was taken No. 23 overall by the Packers.
Jager was the area’s best boys distance runner ever, with four state titles on his résumé, and went to Wisconsin for one year. He then left with former Badgers coach Jerry Schumacher, who recruited him to Wisconsin, to run for Nike. At 19, Jager turned professional.
Watching Bulaga and Jager dominate in their respective sports in high school was a treat. It’s really fun going to games or meets knowing the team you are covering has the best person competing.
It’s enjoyable watching great athletes in high school, and perhaps later on TV if we’re fortunate. It’s even better when we can watch them compete at the highest level in the world, probably for several more years.
When Bulaga and Jager were in high school, everyone figured they could do bigger and better things at the next level. We had no idea it would be this big and this soon.
The first words out of Bulaga’s mouth when the Packers defeated the Bears in the 2010 NFC Championship game were talking about the opportunity he was getting at such a young age that some players never had. Playing in front of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Bulaga should get another shot, but he firmly grasped how special that was.
Jager is the same way. He’s enjoying his moment, hoping and planning on it being the first of three or four appearances in the Olympics.
Our local treasures from five years ago are now there for the world to see, which is extremely cool.
• Joe Stevenson is the senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.