At the Wisconsin annual spring game this Saturday, fans in attendance might have to look twice at the linebacking core to realize they’re not seeing double, but two of the same: the Trotter twins.
Michael and Marcus Trotter, fifth-year seniors from Racine, have spent nearly their entire football careers playing different positions, with Michael at safety and Marcus at linebacker, making the task of distinguishing between the two of them relatively easier.
But with Michael making the move to linebacker during this year’s spring practices, those less familiar with the Wisconsin football team might have even more difficulty knowing what M name belongs to which number.
“I know my first year here I couldn’t even tell him apart,” senior Derek Landisch, who plays the same inside linebacker position as Michael, said.
Michael spent his high school career and the last four years of his college career at the safety position, but during spring practice, safeties coach Bill Busch approached him and Michael Caputo about making the switch to linebacker. Caputo eventually moved back to his safety spot, but for now, Michael has found a home among the linebacker crew, a position where he looks like he will stay.
Although he has spent much of his football life roaming the back-half of the defense, making the switch to linebacker hasn’t been too tough of an undertaking for Michael.
“A lot of people would assume being a safety, being a d-back, I wouldn’t want to get touched. It’s not bad. With [former UW assistant] coach Ash’s old system the safeties had to be aggressive and that’s what I’m used to,” Michael said. “It’s not a problem at all for me to stick my head in there.”
Changing to the position group where his twin counterpart currently holds the role of inside linebacker on the first team defense could have the potential to stir up a sibling rivalry between the two brothers. But as it happened to turn out, Michael made the move from defensive back to the ‘rover’ linebacker position, while Marcus occupies the ‘mac’ linebacker spot, meaning there is no direct competition between the two for the same spot on the field.
Even though the two played at different position on defense during their high school days, a fiery twin rivalry existed between the two, sparking the desire to be the better of the pair. But as they made their way to college and living on their own without their parents, Marcus and Michael have moved past the individual battle and towards looking out for one another.
“Growing up, we were always butting heads. We always tried to get more friends, more girls, more teachers liking us more, sports, accolades, stuff like that. But as of now, it’s not like that,” Marcus Trotter said.
That’s not to say the two are any less competitive than before, but a supportive brotherhood, quite literally, has been rather beneficial — especially with Michael’s move to playing alongside his brother. During Thursday practices this spring when Landisch has to leave early, the two get the opportunity to actually play next to each other.
From the first time Michael was on the field at linebacker with his brother, he hasn’t been a stranger to getting pointers and directions from Marcus. But it doesn’t stop when the final whistle of the practice sounds because the two live together.
Marcus has kept the football lessons going on the home front for his twin brother to help him get up to speed and learn the new defensive schemes, but Marcus is no stranger to taking lessons himself. He played with the soon-to-be-graduate Chris Borland, who Marcus described as someone who always supported him, especially when he got his opportunity to play this past season.
Getting experience behind and alongside someone like Borland, whom both Michael and Marcus said was arguably the best linebacker in Wisconsin football history, can only reap benefits for Marcus and the lessons he passes along to Michael as he vies for a starting position.
Although the two are faced with the daunting assignment of having to work with the rest of the linebackers to replace someone as gifted as Borland, the tall task has a silver lining to it as they finally get to play beside one another.
As Michael battles for a spot next to Marcus, the roles have reversed to a degree. Michael was originally more highly recruited of the two coming out of high school, while Marcus had to work his way to the top at Wisconsin as a walk-on. As Marcus discussed, Michael was supportive of him during his ascent to now being on the first team defense and now the time has come for Marcus to return the favor.
For now the end goal is focused on starting spots for both of them, but the bigger picture for twins playing with one another at the same position is not something that happens very often.
“I don’t think it’s going to hit me now, but I think when I’m older looking back I’ll be like, ‘Wow, I had the opportunity to play with my twin brother.’ As for right now, we’re just living in the moment,” Marcus said. “We love hanging out with each other. He’s my best friend and he’s the second half of me.”
It certainly won’t be an easy task for Michael to adapt to the position and overtake Landisch at his linebacker spot, but in only the few weeks of spring practice so far Michael has shown the ability to adapt quickly to his new surroundings.
As Landisch commented, a lot of that fast adaptation has to do with the intelligence of Michael, both on and off the field, an intelligence that has a big part in him succeeding as a linebacker.
Marcus has already proven himself at the new position in his four-plus years, and although Michael is newer to the scene, just like when they were born, he isn’t too far behind.
“I love being challenged,” Michael said. “I’m excited to take it head on. Marcus and I are really smart players and we’re physical. If you’re a smart player, you’re 99 percent of the way there, so now you just got to make the plays and be in position, and we can.
“This is our last season. We’re not competing against each other. We’re trying to push each other so we can be starters on the field.”