Being in the NFL, there were a few lessons that stood out to Brian Bollinger and John Howell. And they made sure to pass those along to their children, especially their daughters Brooke and Jaelin.
“First and foremost, dealing with adversity – especially adversity in a competitive environment as it relates to sports and the carryover from that to life,” said Super Bowl champion and seven-year NFL veteran John Howell. That is probably how I have been able to help my kids most through the lessons that I learned being in a very competitive environment, playing football for as long as I did at the highest level.
“I tried to teach Jaelin how to deal with adversity and be an advocate for herself. How to earn respect from your teammates and peers. The work ethic and discipline mentality, that is how I had to do things, outwork everybody to achieve my goals and that’s really what I have instilled in my kids.”
“It is the realization that the level of expectation that you can work harder, perform better and be more disciplined,” said three-year NFL vet and Super Bowl champion Brian Bollinger. “Your level of effort can always be a much higher level than whatever you are currently doing right now.”
Those lessons can be seen on the soccer field every day, whether it is at practice or in a game, as both Brooke and Jaelin are some of the most competitive individuals on the pitch.
First and foremost, dealing with adversity – especially adversity in a competitive environment as it relates to sports and the carryover from that to life. That is probably how I have been able to help my kids most through the lessons that I learned being in a very competitive environment, playing football for as long as I did at the highest level.Super Bowl champion and seven-year NFL veteran John Howell
Growing up around fathers that played sports at the highest level – as well as having a pair of brothers – has helped motivate the pair of Seminole Soccer players to reach that height as well.
“In the NFL it is very cutthroat. In any professional sport it is very cutthroat,” said Jaelin Howell, a sophomore midfielder who earned first-team All-ACC honors last season. “I think my dad sharing his mentality is what was most important to me and what influenced me in my sports most going forward”
“The toughness carried over as well. He taught me to have mental toughness in certain situations. That influenced me and influenced my game. His biggest influence was definitely mental toughness.”
Both Brooke and Jaelin grew up with those mentalities from the day they were born.
Brooke did not just get it from her father, but also from her mother, Donna, who was a swimmer at North Carolina. Growing up with brothers did not hurt either.
“My mom was a really big influence on my sports,” said Brooke. “Even before she got to Carolina, she was a really competitive swimmer when she was growing up. She has the same mentality and toughness that my dad does. She is very tough and athletic, so growing up I would say that both of my parents played an equal role for me.
“Once I adopted that mindset when I was younger and really committed to being a part of my sports, they both understood it because they went through it with their sports. My mom played just as equal of a roll for me.”
Being the girl among a couple of football-playing brothers meant Brooke and Jaelin had to be tough to keep up. There would be weekly games of football and basketball in the yard that helped instill toughness both mentally and physically. Both Brooke and Jaelin knew that if they could keep up with their roughhousing brothers, they would be able to keep up with anyone.
“Growing up with brothers, you play rough. Especially younger brothers who both want to gang up on their older sister,” said Jaelin. “I think that defiantly had a part in influencing my playing style. My dad let my brothers fight whenever they wanted, he never really cared if we did that. He thought it would make us tougher, and I think he was right. It has helped me on the field to have that grit and the mentality in the midfield if people are hitting me or I am hitting people.”
“Growing up with two brothers that are always roughhousing with you, I was the one girl trying to stick up for herself,” said Brooke. “I am used to being in a different position than everyone else. That has helped me get used to being a goalkeeper, playing a different role than everyone else.”
At a young age, Brooke wanted to prove to her brothers that she was just as tough as them. And that resulted in sled pulling in the front yard. Being that Brian Bollinger spent three years as a guard with the San Francisco 49ers, he knew just how rough that activity could be. But Brooke wanted to get in on it with her brothers.
“When the boys were doing it, she said to me, ‘Dad, I want to do it, too.’ She managed to pull those sleds just as quickly and just as far as the boys did,” said Brian Bollinger. “That was when I realized she was really hardcore. She wanted to pull the sled in the front yard like a beast.
“She would do that, and her brothers were just fascinated and intimidated that their sister was not only as good as them but during a couple of reps she actually beat them. That got the boys respect in such a huge, huge way.”
Brooke would not back down from a challenge at a very young age and that has transferred over to her time at Florida State. As a redshirt freshman, she started 20 games, and only allowed nine goals as she helped lead the Seminoles to the ACC Championship game before she suffering an injury.
She currently ranks second all-time at FSU in goals-against average with a 0.39.
Jaelin was not much different with her brothers, never backing down from a competition or a challenge. She was right in the middle of all the fights with her brothers but when push came to shove, they were family and she always looked out for them.
“She fit right in with the boys that is for sure,” said John Howell. “She didn’t back down from them or their friends. Any fights, she was right in the scrap all of the time.
“She was always a baby momma to her brothers. She always stuck up for them, she always looked out for them. We could always rely on her to take care of her brothers. But when they ditched it out she didn’t back down. That was a big part, too. Growing up with two younger but very tough, physical, football-playing, wrestling brothers, you have to be tough.”
Jaelin’s involvement with sports was from day one. She was born while her dad was still playing at Colorado State and that is when sports came into Jaelin’s life. As her dad got to the NFL and began playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, her mom, Laura, began taking her out to play every sport she could.
“Her mom and I have always been advocates of multiple sports,” said John. “Since the time she could walk, her mom was hauling her to every sport on the planet. When we lived in Florida and I was playing for the Bucs she had her in everything.
“She did a great job of playing three sports at the same time. I could remember when she was about 12 years old, she would get out of school and go to soccer practice, leave a little early and go to basketball practice and then leave early from that and go to volleyball practice and get home a 9 o’clock and have to do her homework. Our idea was you are a more well-rounded athlete, the more sports you are able to play with your footwork and eye-hand coordination.”
Brooke was much the same, playing multiple sports from a young age, including basketball and swimming to go along with soccer. She took after her older brother and wanted to get involved in basketball while he was playing. Once he transitioned to playing football, she chose to move on from basketball and more toward soccer.
“Once I was put into the goalkeeper position,” she said, “it felt so comfortable to me, because so many of those skills involved with that position such as jumping and catching balls were second nature to me from being involved in football in the yard or basketball in the driveway.
“It seemed like the right place for me once I was put there.”
Growing up as a kid she was so competitive. She was really good athletically and she loved it. You could tell she loved it. She loved it so much she really didn’t care too much about what other people thought. That is when early one we got a hint that she is probably going to do something really unique but we don’t know what it is.Three-year NFL vet and Super Bowl Champion Brian Bollinger
All of what Brooke and Jaelin learned from their fathers resulted in reaching the top of the college soccer mountain in 2018.
With Brooke and Jaelin helping to lead the way, the Seminoles would win the second national championship in the program’s history.
That, however, would not be either father’s proudest moments for their daughters.
Brian Bollinger expressed how impressive Brooke was growing up. She was a very analytical person at a young age. But something he was most proud of his daughter for is creating meaningful friendships. During his time in the NFL, that was something that has always stuck with Brian – the lifelong friendships.
“The way Brooke made her decision to go to Florida State was so analytical, it was really impressive and almost intimidating to me as a grown man to see my eighth-grade daughter make that decision,” said Brian Bollinger.
“Another thing I am most proud of is that I know she is making the friendships of a lifetime. That is something she really got out of my experience playing football in the college and the pros. I have lifelong friendships that my kids know about. She knew the bond I had with people was special because I had some extreme self-sacrifice involved with a multitude of teammates. I think that has had a pretty big effect on her. She was so focused during certain periods of her life. I think she was pursuing and looking forward to having some really special bonded friendships like the ones I was lucky enough to have.”
John Howell is most impressed with Jaelin’s toughness and how she has carried herself through all the adversity she has been through at a young age.
“Her toughness in a lot of ways makes me most proud,” said John. “When I see her doing the tough things in the game that make the biggest difference. When nobody else can be that tough, I see her do that and it changes the game and turns things around for her teammates.
“Her level of maturity has made me proud. She has grown up quickly. She has had to grow up fast and I am really proud of how she has done that.”