Tipp twins to play together for national powerhouse Mount Union

TIPP CITY — Cael and Evan Liette agree on many aspects of life. But a simple question brings out disagreement and displays the competitive drive in the football-playing twins.

“Who’s faster?”

Right now the answer they agree to is Cael because Evan is recovering from a minor injury.

“What if you were both healthy right now and lined up to race?”

“Full strength — he’s dusted,” Evan said.

Cael, typically the more talkative of the two (something they agree on), shows the slightest of smirks, shakes his head and quietly says, “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Whether they ever line up and settle the debate over 40 yards or 100 yards, the important takeaway is this: both of them are fast. Fast enough to be difference makers for the Tippecanoe football team the past two seasons and fast enough (among other attributes) to be recruited to play for Division III powerhouse Mount Union. The Purple Raiders own 13 national championships from 1993 through 2017 and have appeared in the Stagg Bowl championship game 22 times from 1993 through 2022.

More than the trophies, the Mount Union coaches and players impressed the Liettes off the field. Longtime assistant coach and former team captain Don Montgomery recruited the twins and let them know every week he wanted them to be Purple Raiders. On their overnight visit, they witnessed the team culture that sold them.

“It was something that was way better than what we saw when we went to other colleges,” Cael said.

What Mount Union sees in the Liettes is football players who contributed to Tipp’s winning culture as dynamic playmakers. Evan set almost every career and single-season receiving record at Tipp. He led the Miami Valley League as a senior in receiving yards (862), receptions (71) and receiving touchdowns (nine).

“He’s exceptional,” Cael said. “I enjoy his flair.”

Cael led the league in rushing yards (1,287), was third in yards per carry (7.0) and first in rushing touchdowns (23). Cael, also a middle linebacker, was third in the league in tackles (122). Both were voted first-team all-Southwest District.

Tipp head coach Matt Burgbacher said Evan set the standard for what future receivers will aim for at Tipp and that he will remember Cael as one of the most selfless leaders he has coached.

“Success just didn’t happen,” Burgbacher said. “These were two of our hardest workers, and they just so happened to be two of our best football players. There’s a correlation.”

The twins, as similar as they are in work ethic, ability, speed and curly hair, were never a package deal for recruiters. They have different career goals and were willing to attend different schools because they know the day is coming when they won’t see each other every day. But choosing Mount Union together makes Saturday planning easier on the parents.

Still, the Mount Union choice comes with some individual choices. They’ve decided not to be roommates. They won’t be in class together, and they are curious about having different friends. Still, they will remain close as teammates, weight-lifting partners and figure they will only be a few doors apart in the dorm. And, of course, they will have those three-hour rides together to and from Alliance.

“We’re going to have to separate at some time, but this isn’t ripping off the Band-Aid totally,” Cael said.

The first symbol of individuality at Tuesday’s signing ceremony in the high school cafeteria showed in their T-shirt choices. The design was the same, but Evan wore black and Cael wore white. Their academic choices also show their differences.

Evan’s planned major is pre-med. His mom, Kari Scott, is a nurse, and his stepmother, Whitney Liette, is a podiatrist. He has job shadowed and observed surgeries. Cael wants to major in finance and feed his entrepreneurial spirit. Chad Liette owns real estate, so Cael wants to learn about money because he has similar ideas of being a property owner.

As football players Evan will continue as a receiver. Cael’s preference is running back, but he will play defense if that’s what gets him playing time. Otherwise, as football teammates, the twins are single-minded.

“On the football field or in the weight room we’re always pushing each other to be the best,” Cael said.

Yet, when it comes to who is the fastest, only one can be the best. Maybe some day, when no one is watching, they will line up and settle the debate.

“He’s not faster,” Cael said, getting the last word. “He’s shifty ... shiftier ... I’ll give you that.”

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