Football, family are big -- BIG -- for John Marshall's Ladu brothers

Aug. 30—(Editor's note: This article is part of the 2023 Pigskin Preview, which will appear in the Saturday, Sept. 2, Post Bulletin print edition. A full list of articles that will appear on this week is at the bottom of this article.)

ROCHESTER — Rochester John Marshall brothers and football standouts Zach and Eli Ladu mostly agree on what it's like coming from a family of 11 kids.

There are nine Ladu siblings living in the Ladu house right now, senior Zach and junior Eli among them. In general, they wouldn't want it any other way.

"I like it a lot," Eli said. "We've got a lot of kids, so you never get lonely. All of us play sports. We spend all of our free time playing sports."

Zach sounds a little bit more like a guy who's ready to take the next step. A year from now, he figures to be playing college football somewhere. He'll miss the energy and chaos of the Ladu house, to a point.

"It can be annoying and it can also be really fun at times (with so many siblings in the house)," said Zach, who's made it a daily summer thing to play catch with the football with his third-grade brother Noah, who he says might end up as the best Ladu athlete of all. "Our younger siblings can be really loud and they are running around the house all the time."

There are three Ladu brothers who have been particularly glued to each other in their growing-up days. They are Peter, Zach and Eli. Peter graduated from John Marshall in 2021. All are excellent athletes and all have played wide receiver and defensive back for the Rockets. Peter, who is rated by Zach as the top athlete among them, is now a freshman receiver at Division II Concordia University, St. Paul. He missed out on almost all of what had figured to be a breakout senior season by him at JM with a broken collar bone.

But when it comes to being an athlete, the long-armed 6-foot-3, 200-pound sprinter and jumper is the Ladu boys' measuring stick: 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash and a 37-inch vertical jump.

"Peter is the best athlete; in almost every way he's got me, although I think I'm smarter," said Zach, who like Eli is also a standout in basketball and track and field. "But athletically, he's just more developed."

Don't be convinced that it will be like this forever. If it comes down to who works hardest, then look out for the 6-3, 175-pound Zach, who has been to a pack of college football camps this summer, including at the University of Minnesota. He could also often be found at some Gibbs Elementary School green space this summer, working on running pass patterns and getting in and out of breaks with his moves. That's besides making sure he was part of the JM group training four days per week this summer.

It was his showing, or lack thereof, at the first University of Minnesota football camp he attended this year that pushed him. He found out there that he was lacking and at times awkward as a route runner. Zach has been working to change that ever since and graded much higher at his second U of M camp in late July.

This is a grinder, a fierce competitor and a guy who's committed to getting better.

"Zach is a race horse — you have to rein him in," John Marshall football coach Kyle Riggott said. "But you'd rather do that than have to pull teeth. Zach is one of the most competitive kids I've ever met."

Zach, like Eli a starting receiver and defensive back for JM, has made it his quest to be all he can be in sports. He wants a football scholarship and has already been offered one by Division II college Minot State University.

But Zach also has another goal. It is for younger brother Eli to also develop into all he can be. Zach has considerable hope for the 6-foot, 150-pound Eli, a smooth point guard in basketball who like Zach triple jumped more than 40 feet this track-and-field season.

Zach believes that Eli has much developing left to do. He's pushing him to be the same serious athlete that he is.

"Zach makes sure I am doing things the right way," Eli said. "If I make a questionable decision, he always tells me. He tells me I have too much to lose to do things wrong. He says I have to stay focused. I always listen to him."


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—Column: The Pigskin Preview turns 50

—Why the chase for the Section 1, 9-Player championship could be wide open this fall


—How and why the Winona State University coaching staff is prioritizing southeastern Minnesota as a recruiting hotbed

—Defending champ Fillmore Central is among the favorites in a loaded Section 1, Class 1A

—Who will challenge Chatfield in Section 1, Class 2A this season?

—Stewartville star will be a problem for opposing linemen


—Donovan family has led La Crescent-Hokah's quick turnaround

—Chicago native Martell Williams returned to RCTC this fall for one reason

—One powerhouse has moved out, another has moved into Section 1, Class 3A

—Is Section 1, Class 4A a three-horse race again?


—Section 1, Class 5A could be up for grabs

—The Post Bulletin names its "Dangerous Dozen" for the 2023 season

—College coaches have eyes on John Marshall's Ladu brothers


—John Marshall graduate Deontae Veney is making a "big" impact at Minnesota State University, Mankato

—Mayo's Holcomb a rare five-year varsity player — and a rare athlete

—Rochester Mayo to tackle the state's biggest class, moving up to Section 3, Class 6A


—Why are teams schedules so different this fall? We find out why local teams will face unfamiliar foes

—Kingsland's dynamic backfield duo has Knights dreaming big in '23

—As the Pigskin turns 50, we look back at every southeastern Minnesota team that has won a state title since its inception in 1974