NATICK — Natick High football coach Mark Mortarelli feels doubly blessed to have had brothers Gus and Tim Ramstrom around the last few years.
“If we had a team of Ramstroms,’’ he said, “we’d never lose a game.”
The Ramstrom link to Natick football is a long one, tracing to Eric, the brothers’ father. But it will end, at least for a while, Thanksgiving Day against longtime rival Framingham when Tim Ramstrom, a senior, plays his last game.
Gus now plays his football at Worcester State University, where he is a freshman.
From the time they were tots, the brothers found a lot of common ground. When sports came along, Gus gravitated to football and wrestling at an early age. So did Tim.
“Gus had a huge influence on me,” said Tim. “I looked up to him. I still do.” Both Ramstroms have been Bay State Conference all stars in football, and both were captains. They’ve also been wrestling captains. It says a lot about what their coaches and teammates think about them.
You’d almost think they were the same person. What unites them is brotherly love. What sets them apart is personality.
“Tim’s laid-back, even-keeled,” said Mortarelli. “He’s smooth. Gus is tough. He’s like a rock. He’s a type A go-go-go guy. Everything’s 100 miles per hour.”
Their dad agreed. “Gus is very emotional,’’ said Eric Ramstrom “He’s fiery. That’s who he is. Tim’s a little more reserved. He sits back, watches, and figures things out. But he’s equally effective’’ on the field.
Gus made a strong first impression at Worcester State this fall, which finished its season at 6-4. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound linebacker had seven tackles in the season finale against Framingham State. He was selected MASCAC rookie of the week in the Bridgewater State game. “We hadn’t beaten them in over a decade,” said Gus. “That made it a big deal.”
Of the two, Gus has been the unlucky brother. In the spring of 2015, competing for the Metrowest United Wrestling team in a Lake Placid tournament, he suffered an ACL injury that sidelined him for the entire 2015 football season. He returned last year and played the season with a nagging shoulder problem, then sat out the wrestling season.
It was as if he were snake-bitten. Instead, Gus took the high road. “Obviously I was down, but my parents, my brother, and my teammates were there for me.”
It also helped that Natick went 9-2 his senior season. “We might not have had the most talent, but we were going to outwork the other teams. We went out great, as seniors.”
As a captain, that meant a lot to him.
Natick High football was important to Gus ever since he could remember. Eric Ramstrom had both played the game and wrestled at Natick.
The three Ramstrom males would “watch the Patriots and go to the high school games,” recalled Gus. “The Natick players were superheroes to us.” At Memorial Field, Gus would dream that “some day I’m going to be out there.”
He played youth travel football from third to eighth grade, and it wasn’t pretty. “We won only one game. It was brutal. It took a toll on some kids. I felt ‘you know what, something’s going to change.”
It did. The team won seven games in his sophomore year. And Mortarelli had found a three-year starter who even got to carry the ball a few times, a linebacker’s dream.
Long before they wrestled at the high school level, the brothers “wrassled” around the house. “They were physical,’’ said their father. “I thought they’d tear the house up.”
“We didn’t break anything, at least not on purpose,” said Gus. “Things calmed down after a little bit. Wrestling grew the relationship with Tim and me. It wasn’t until high school that we played on the same team.”
Because of Gus’s injuries, he and Tim only got to play football together for one season. “It was awesome being out there with him,” said Tim.
“Tim’s really athletic, and he’s got great instincts,” said Mortarelli. “He’s had five interceptions this season, and they were all when we needed them.” One, against Walpole, he returned 40 yards for a touchdown.
Mortarelli liked that the Ramstroms were wrestlers. “You’ve got to have strong hands to wrestle. I think that translates to football,” said the coach.
Like his brother did, Tim also carries the ball occasionally. Mostly, he blocks. You can add long snapper and special teams to his job description. Mortarelli calls Tim “Old Reliable.”
When Tim plays his last Natick game on Thanksgiving, it will be a chance for the family to be together. His brother and father know what it’s like to finish a high school football career against Framingham.
“I text Tim before every game,” said Gus. The message is basically the same. “Play your heart out.”
As his final game nears, “I think of Thanksgiving as a calm madness,” said Tim. It starts with the morning game, with his dad and mother, Trish, and sister, Maeve, a sophomore gymnast and lacrosse player, in the stands.
Eric played on three consecutive unbeaten teams, two that won Super Bowls as Natick went on a 38-game winning streak. A spectacular two-point win over Melrose in the Super Bowl on the New England Patriots’ home field is still talked about in Natick circles. “I’ve heard my share of those stories from my father,” said Tim. “We learned about Natick’s strong football culture from him.”
Eric, a lineman, plays down his contributions to those great teams. “But when I see [star quarterback] Paul Ghilani around town, I remind him how I protected him.”
So now the question hovering over the Ramstrom household like a drone is whether the brothers will be teammates again, this time at Worcester State. “It would be awesome,” said Gus. “I think he’d thrive in the environment. It’d be nice to have a brother here.
“But I can’t pry an answer from him.”
Tim’s only concession is that he has college plans.
The path both brothers are on is no mystery to Eric and Trish. “We’re very proud of the young men they’re becoming,” said Eric. That, of course, is praise of the highest order.Lenny Megliola can be reached at email@example.com.