It’s All in the Family for the Tufts Football Team

Five sets of brothers, including triplets, are on the gridiron on Saturdays for the Jumbos

Most football teams consider themselves a family. At Tufts, it’s especially true—the Jumbos have five sets of siblings on their roster and all play a part on Saturdays.

“It’s pretty awesome,” said Jay Civetti, head coach of the Tufts football team. “I don’t know that something like that has ever happened on one team before.”

It’s a unique mix with the Maiava triplets (Matthew, Micah, and Michael), three Ferrelli brothers (Richie, Henry, and Johnny), twins Aidan and Colin MacLean, and two Richardson (Jaden and Ty) and Rios (Javier and Matt) brothers all on the squad.

“There are some good bloodlines there,” Civetti said. “It makes me feel like we’re doing the right things when those families want to keep sending their children here. Family and that commitment to each other is most important here. When you see siblings choosing to want to do what their big brothers have done, it’s hard not to feel incredibly grateful and motivated. I think it’s a true testament to what our program is all about and all the assistant coaches in our program and the way they take care of the players.”

The Ferrellis represent nearly every class for Tufts. Richie is a fifth-year senior linebacker, while Henry is a junior running back, and Johnny is a freshman linebacker. All three are on the field at the same time for kickoff returns.

“My mom certainly likes kickoff return. That’s her favorite play, probably,” Richie said with a laugh. “It’s just great to see everybody make an impact.”

The chance to play on the same team with both of his brothers for the first time in their football careers was enough to make Richie return for his fifth year of eligibility.

“I always knew it was a possibility. All three of us are good players that could play at this level,” he said. “I was really big on not trying to put my two cents into where they ended up. But I am happy it ended up the way it did,” he said.

“This opportunity is certainly not one that comes for a lot of people,” he added. “I’ve been preaching that we really need to enjoy it while we can. It won’t last forever. It’s crazy how fast the season goes by.”

As a freshman, “you always hear the seniors saying the same things over and over again about enjoying the moment and don’t take it for granted,” Richie continued. “It’s hard to do that when you’re in the moment. There have been times when I’ve been on the field and looked around and seen my brothers and thought, ‘Man, this is a really cool moment.’ It’s such a great opportunity to play with my brothers for such a great school, great program and team.”

Triplets on the Line

Originally from Hawaii, the Maiava triplets all play on the offensive line. Micah (6-foot-4, 320) is the biggest, but Michael (6-4, 285) and Matthew (6-3, 310) are imposing figures as well. Matthew suffered a season-ending injury in week one.

“They have a pretty amazing family. Being triplets, at first, it was pretty hard to tell them apart,” Civetti said. “They all have tribal tattoos. Based on your age, that dictates how big your arm sleeve [tattoo] is. With them being triplets, it’s still hard to tell since they were born on the same day. The oldest by a few minutes, Matthew—he is the biggest and he drives and does all the speaking. In the recruiting process, he was the spokesman. Mom runs a tight ship; they are just unbelievable human beings.”

To complicate matters for the Jumbos, the brothers had to keep changing uniform numbers when they first joined the program.

Two large football players standing next to each other, one with an intricate tattoo on one arm.

Matthew Maiava, right, with teammate Nick Swift.

“They are huge human beings, and we just didn’t have big enough uniforms for them. We didn’t have a lot of 3XLs, so we had to keep switching their numbers for jerseys that fit, so it became even more difficult to tell them apart,” Civetti said. “We couldn’t go with just their last name and first initial on their helmet stickers, either. We had to spell out their first names, too.”

Having all three brothers together is “really special,” Civetti said. “As disappointed as Matthew was when he got hurt, the other two shared the pain. It’s awesome to see how competitive they all are with each other; that sibling rivalry is there.”

Even though Matthew is sidelined, there are times Micah and Michael are in games on the offensive line at the same time.

“The Maiava triplets are awesome. They are three great players and amazing dudes. They couldn’t be nicer guys,” Richie Ferrelli said. “I am sure it’s going to be super intimidating when all three are lined up on the line. It’s just a super unique situation. I haven’t heard about anything like that in college football, in general.”

Older sister Sydnie Maiava, who played soccer at Wyoming and Loyola Marymount, now attends Tufts as a graduate student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

“That family environment just carries over,” Civetti said.

Lining Up on Opposite Sides in Practice

Jaden Richardson, a senior, is the squad’s leading receiver. He had 10 catches for 153 yards and three touchdowns in the September 30 28-10 win over Williams. Ty Richardson, a freshman defensive back, had a touchdown-saving tackle in the win as well.

“There have always been siblings on this team throughout the years, but it’s kind of crazy we have so many,” Jaden said. “For us, the family environment of the team speaks to that. It’s so cool we have these families that send both—or more—kids to this program.”

As California natives, the Richardsons made the trek across the country to attend Tufts, where their mom, Nkia, graduated.

A wide receiver stretches out his arm to catch a football.

“For me, it’s hard to turn down a school like Tufts,” said Jaden Richardson. “To be able to go to a great school and play football is awesome.”

“That wasn’t the main reason I came here, but I don’t think she was mad at me coming here,” Jaden said. “I had never really been around Boston at all. But, having her and my godmother, who had gone here, too, I think that played a role. For me, it’s hard to turn down a school like Tufts. To be able to go to a great school and play football is awesome. I didn’t know what to expect the first time I visited. I loved it. It’s a culture shock a little bit, but probably one of the best decisions I’ve made. And, with me here, it makes it a little easier to sell my brother on it.”

The recruiting process was intense for Ty, too. In the end, he couldn’t turn down a chance to go to Tufts.

“Ty had some opportunities to go and play up at a higher level, but we are thrilled he chose us,” Civetti said. “I still remember the day Ty committed at our first game last year and how thrilled Jaden was about it.”

Jaden enjoys the chance to play on the same team as his younger brother. “For me, seeing my brother coming into his own is really great,” he said. “Navigating that whole recruiting process was weird, because I wanted him here. But I wanted to balance finding the right spot for him, but also letting him it’s not a bad option to come here. I am glad he did.”

Playing opposite positions allows the two to get into some unique practice battles.

“The funny part is, my brother is the only one I go up against. We’ll line up almost every week at some point. The first couple days of camp, we were lining up against each other a lot. Having a sibling line up right across from you adds a new level of competition. That’s fun,” Jaden said. “We talk smack during practice. It’s fun. At the end of the day, we all have the same goal. As long as we’re on the same page, it’s all fun.”

When not competing against each other on the field, Jaden is happy to be a resource for his brother.

“Just in terms of getting here, signing up for classes, getting stuff for your dorm, how you need structure your day—things like that. At the same time, I am not his dad, and he needs to go do his own thing. The first week or two here, we were learning that and finding that sweet spot,” Jaden said. “When I was a senior in high school, he was 13 or 14. So, this is the first time I have been around him every day since then. It’s been awesome to see him grow into himself and be his own person. I think we’re closer now than we were then.”

Offensive and Defensive

And then there are the twins: Aidan and Colin MacLean. They indeed do look alike, and their positions make for more potential connections: Aidan is a quarterback, and Colin a wide receiver. The sophomores both played football as high schoolers in Clearwater, Florida.

A football player in a Tufts University uniform standing on the sideline holding his helmet.

Javier Rios.

Brothers Javier and Matt Rios round out the gridiron siblings. Javier is a senior starter at defensive end, while Matt Rios is a freshman receiver who sees time on special teams.

“Matt Rios is the biggest supporter of his brother and vice versa. Javy was so excited when Matt came here,” Civetti said. “It’s awesome having them here.”

Bringing these brothers together is wonderful, Civetti said. “It’s just great having this family tradition that we do here,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s something we continue to be a part of. There are plenty of younger brothers of players on our team we’re heavily recruiting, too.”

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