What started out as a young woman traveling more than 1,200 miles to attend college and play soccer quickly turned into a family tradition.
Katie Traeger is the oldest of four in a close-knit family. By visiting her at Ohio State, brothers Jake and Reid Traeger decided that the trek from Littleton, Colo. to Columbus was well worth it – they wanted to follow in their sister’s footsteps and play soccer for OSU.
“I came out, checked out the facilities, and the facilities were second to none,” Jake Traeger said. “To be close to my sister Katie was a definite bonus to come here and play.”
As children, Jake and Reid Traeger played their first moments of soccer at 5 and 4 years old, respectively. All of this was under the direction of their father and first coach, Doug Traeger.
Soccer was only one among many sports the boys participated in. They also swam and played hockey, tennis, golf and baseball on the side.
“They just seemed to gravitate towards the soccer,” said their mother, Susie Traeger. “When it came down to having to drop a sport because of time, soccer always seemed a top choice to keep.”
Jake and Reid Traeger continued growing in both their soccer skills and relationship with each other as their high school years crept along. As the older of the two, Jake would opt to stay in and hang out with his younger brother instead of going out with friends.
“Back in high school, some of my friends would give me slack for not going out all of the time but, to be honest, I would rather be spending time with Reid and our younger brother Steve,” Jake Traeger said. “That is how tight we are.”
When the time came for Jake to move into the next phase of his life, he packed up and moved east. After establishing himself as a Buckeye, he walked on to the soccer team his freshman year. By having his sister at OSU, he was able to learn the ropes of the 48,000-plus student body.
During his first year, Jake Traeger had to work hard to make his name known among the OSU soccer players.
“Jake was the type of person who was one of the new guys who didn’t get to play a lot as a freshman,” said childhood friend and OSU student Dusty Herman. “He had to work very hard to make his way up to the top to where he was one of the best players as a senior.”
When Jake Traeger was a junior, his brother Reid left the mountains behind to join him in the flatlands of Columbus. He too walked on to the soccer team as a freshman.
“I was looking at Washington before I came here, but I am set here,” Reid Traeger said. “I like the school, all my friends are here and having Jake out here made it a lot better.”
Last season marked the final year that the Traeger brothers were brought together to play soccer before Jake was drafted by the Columbus Crew.
“I remember our first preseason practice. It was nice looking down the field and seeing Reid there,” Jake Traeger said. “We didn’t even have to talk on the field, we would always know what the other person was going to do and that helped a lot.”
Having Jake at OSU eased the transition from high school to college competition for Reid Traeger.
“When I got here, Jake had been through the experience and it helped me to adjust,” Reid Traeger said. “It made me a better player because he would be down the field for me to pass the ball to.”
In 2001, during Jake Traeger’s junior year and Reid’s freshman year, the Buckeyes had a winning season and played in the NCAA Championships.
Jake Traeger was drafted by the Columbus Crew in January of this year, giving the brothers a chance to compete against each other in the spring showdown between the Buckeyes and the Crew.
“It was definitely fun to be against Reid,” Jake Traeger said. “I had never really done that before so it was a new experience. It was fun joking around with him, and I went out of my way to foul him once or twice.”
“It was fun because we always play some one-on-one against each other in the summer,” Reid Traeger said. “Seeing Jake in a Crew uniform was pretty cool and exciting.”
Now in his first season with the Crew, Jake Traeger again finds himself in the “new guy” role, working his way up.
The short time Jake Traeger has spent with the Crew has proved to be more demanding than playing for OSU. He has not yet finished his degree in personal finance and is the only player on the MLS team trying to balance school and professional soccer.
“I had to drop a few classes after I got drafted to make things work,” Jake Traeger said. “The coaches have been really good about trying to help me finish my degree.”
Having Reid Traeger at OSU with Jake has been beneficial for both. The brothers are able to help each other through tough times as well as use each other as an escape from the pressures of being an athlete.
“It has been a little bit more of a comfort zone having them out there together,” Susie Traeger said. “They have tried to spend time together and help each other in their academics and athletics.”
As for academics, both men are involved in the business aspect. Jake Traeger is studying personal finance and hopes to graduate by winter 2004. Reid Traeger, a sophomore in business finance, was attracted to the major because he plans on running his own business someday.
The ambition and personality Reid Traeger has should lead him to a successful career.
“Reid is a hard worker. When he wants something, I know he will do what he needs to get it,” Jake Traeger said. “He is fun to be around. If you know him, then you definitely know that people want to be around him and they enjoy his company.”
Reid Traeger also looks up to his brother Jake.
“Jake is just a great guy. He has been the number one role model for me. I always know that no matter what I ask, he will help me out,” Reid Traeger said. “He is real laid-back about stuff and we are always laughing and having a good time. Jake is my best friend.”
When the two aren’t playing soccer, they tend to spend time together just hanging out. Both enjoy playing video games, going out to dinner, playing pickup basketball games and, most importantly, laughing.
Having been so close while growing up, the brothers also share Herman – a senior in finance and accounting and one of their best friends. Herman grew up with the Traegers in Littleton and met them when he joined Doug Traeger’s soccer team.
“I don’t know any brothers that are closer than those two are,” Herman said. “They spend a lot of time joking around. When we all hang out, we don’t ever need to go anywhere or do anything to have a good time. We can just hang out and laugh.”