Ever since their early days playing Pop Warner football, the Miranda brothers have been competitive. Growing up in Uphams Corner, Isaiah and his younger brother Elijah enjoyed a rivalry that extended beyond the gridiron.
“We’re highly competitive in anything we do,” said Isaiah, 20, now a redshirt sophomore linebacker at Boston College. “In basketball, in board games, anything; but it’s all love.”
The siblings have been virtually inseparable their entire lives. Only two years apart in age, they were always on the same team growing up, progressing through the Pop Warner A and B teams. Then one after the other, it was on to the BC High Arrupe 7th/8th grade team, to the freshman team, and finally the varsity squad.
Isaiah, who signs in at 6 feet and 245 pounds, was a star at BC High who committed to BC in 2016. Elijah again followed in his footsteps, up to a point. He played with the Maroon and Gold, then walked onto the UMass football team in Amherst this summer as a freshman.
Now on campuses separated by 90 miles, the brothers are experiencing for the first time what it’s like to be apart for an extended period of time, said Isaiah. But this Saturday afternoon, when the Minutemen take on the Eagles in Chestnut Hill, they will be on opposing teams for the first time. And in the lead-up to the game, Isaiah said, the old sibling rivalry is flaring up once more.
“With the game coming up we’ve been doing a lot of talking,” he said. “Off the field we are very close, me and my brother. We do everything with each other. Saturday’s gonna be a lot of fun.”
The Labor Day weekend clash is the season opener for Boston College, which has outscored UMass 56-14 the last two times they met. But the Minutemen, fresh off an explosive 63-15 win last week over Duquesne, will look to buck that trend and pull off the upset for the first time in 40 years.
Elijah, an 18-year-old defensive lineman who registers at 6-foot-1 and 255 pounds, said that weeks into the preseason he could already feel that the tides of change are flowing. “We’re a program that’s been down lately, but we’re gonna change that,” he explained. “Our coaches want us to make history, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Like Isaiah, Elijah described his lifelong competition with his brother as an intense but healthy one. “We feed off each other and make each other better,” he said. “As the little brother, I always want to one up him, to be better than him.”
Elijah is now facing the challenges of adjusting to the faster pace of college ball. But with 3 of 4 starters on the UMass defensive line graduating this past May, he’s excited about a chance to prove himself and earn his role with the team.
“We’ve been putting in a lot of work on the practice field...I’m just looking for any opportunity I can get to show the coaches something and help out the team,” he said.
As for Saturday at Alumni Stadium, Elijah insisted that UMass would have the edge on the defensive side of the ball, warning his brother he “better bring that, because we will.”
Isaiah, meanwhile, is part of a linebacker corps that has seen several players drafted in recent years, including Harold Landry, a second-round pick this year by the Tennessee Titans.
“As a freshman, you’ve gotta put head down and work hard, and gain the respect of your teammates,” he said. “Seeing Landry, Connor [Strachan], Ty [Schwab], how they worked — you learn from senior leaders...but as people move on to the NFL, you’ve gotta step up and assume a role.”
The brothers have confidence in their own squads, and it’s safe to say that each will match the other’s intensity from the opening kickoff. What will Isaiah say to his younger brother when he sees him on the field before the game? “Good luck. May the best man win.”