SALT LAKE CITY — Bradlee Anae may not understand the strategy in volleyball, and Adora Anae may not understand the schemes in football, but that doesn’t mean they don’t find inspiration in the accomplishments of the other.
“He doesn’t understand volleyball, and I don’t really understand football, but our passion for the sports is what we share,” said Adora, who begins her senior season with the No. 23-ranked Utes this fall. “We share our experiences at practice and at games. … We just share each other’s experiences. And it’s just the best to be here at the U. together.”
The siblings, separated by just two years, are now roommates — along with a few cousins — and they’ve been reveling in each other’s accomplishments since they were toddlers.
“My brother and I are extremely close,” said Adora, who has a long list of accomplishments as a leader of the volleyball team, while her 19-year-old brother is beginning to make his own mark on the Utah football program in his sophomore season. “He’s one of the leaders on his team, and the coaches really trust him. He’s committed. … He’s one of a kind.”
That is not just big-sister adoration.
Bradlee Anae is slated to be the only underclassman starting on the vaunted Utah defensive line this fall. He joins heralded seniors in Kylie Fitts, Filipo Mokofisi and Lowell Lotulelei — who are the fearsome backbone of the No. 25-ranked Utah defense.
“He’s making a lot of progress,” said defensive line coach Lewis Powell. “He’s knowing and understanding where he fits in the scheme. He’s always had a good motor, and he’s a hard worker. Now he’s starting to understand what we’re asking of him on the field. He’s doing everything we ask of him and beyond.”
Adora said her brother has come a long way since the days when the family was constantly trying to deal with backpacks left at school.
“He left his backpack every day at school,” she said laughing. “We had to buy him new supplies every week. You know how hard that is for our parents? But now he’s grown into a man.”
Both Anaes have an easygoing demeanor that belies their competitive nature. Bradlee and Adora said that while their very athletic parents (Brad was a former BYU and professional football player, while Ina, from the Cook Islands, played netball) never pushed them toward sports, it is their nature.
“It’s in our genes,” Bradlee said. “They didn’t push us. We just found our own passions.”
Adora, who was the first freshman to earn Pac-12 all-conference honors and has a long list of awards and accomplishments to her credit, said the standard was really set with their oldest sister Pati, who played volleyball at Portland State and now plans to play professionally overseas.
“I started playing volleyball because of her,” Adora said. “She was able to get things going, so there was just that motivation from our older sister growing up. She was always the one going after it.”
She said her brother didn’t "peak" until his senior season, something Powell said works to his advantage now that he’s in college.
“Rarely do we see a sophomore who is able to come in and help us,” Powell said. “He’s matured a lot since last year (where he played in six games) — physically and mentally. We’re excited for him this year.”
He said he follows the tremendous leadership of the seniors on the line and works extremely hard.
“Bradlee is developing the right way,” Powell said. “He didn’t develop early and plateau. He developed later, in his senior year, and he’s just continuing to get bigger, faster and stronger, and also mentally stronger and smarter.” Powell said.
Bradlee was never intimidated by the expectations that come with being part of the football program’s most successful position group despite not really garnering much attention from scouts until his senior season.
“He kind of came in with a different attitude, like he was going to come in and do well, from the beginning,” Powell said. “He hit the ground running and he hasn’t stopped since he got here. We love the energy he brings.”
His sister said she often marvels at her little, well, younger brother’s endless energy.
“He’s a sweetheart, but he’s also a gentleman,” she said. “He knows that when he’s on the field, it’s game-time. He’s aggressive, and I don’t know if he is ever tired.”
The one thing both siblings acknowledge is how helpful it is to have each other. Their youngest sister, Bradina, just joined them in Utah, but she will be wearing blue this fall. A world-record-holding powerlifter, she is a shot putter for BYU.
Both beam with pride at their baby sister’s accomplishments and aspirations — which include the Olympics. Bradlee quickly notes that it was him who helped her find her way to weightlifting.
“I was in eighth grade and she was in seventh grade,” he said. “The first couple of weeks she was like, 'Oh, come with me to the gym.' So I went and lifted with her. But then I started to get busy with football, and she just kept going on her own. She’s been strong all her life.” Having three of the siblings in Utah is both a comfort and a motivator for the Anae clan.
“As a whole as siblings, we just continue to push each other,” Adora said. “We don’t want to settle for less. We want to be the best.”