Ann Henry planned for two sons throughout her pregnancy 21 years ago in Arkansas. Repeated trips to the doctor and multiple ultrasound tests told her twins were on the way.

When the day finally arrived to bring her boys into the world, an enormous surprise awaited.

John Irwin was the first to arrive via cesarean section. He weighed 6 pounds, 7 ounces. Next came Sean Irwin, a healthy 5 pounds, 12 ounces. Then...

"We were simply speechless," Henry wrote in an email recently. "I was awake during the procedure and remember hearing the doctor say 'Oh my God, there's another pair of feet,' when he pulled Jeromy out."

CU football players Jeromy Irwin, left, and Sean, right, pose with their fraternal triplet John last Christmas.
CU football players Jeromy Irwin, left, and Sean, right, pose with their fraternal triplet John last Christmas. (/ Courtesy photo)

Jeromy Irwin weighed 5 pounds, 14 ounces. His heartbeat was never detected during all those tests because it was perfectly synchronized with one of his brothers. Though he was the last one out, Jeromy was the first of the fraternal triplets to go home while his brothers needed an extra five days in neonatal care to get used to the world.

Henry was carrying 18 pounds, 1 ounce of brotherhood.

More than two decades later, Jeromy and Sean Irwin are third-year-sophomores on the University of Colorado football team looking forward to their first opportunity to play with each other at the college level. Jeromy grew into a 6-foot-5, 295-pound left tackle. Sean is now 6-3, 245 pounds and playing tight end.


Advertisement

They have never played next to each other on the field because Jeromy was a guard throughout his prep career. Jeromy played as a true freshman two years ago for the Buffs while Sean redshirted. Last season, Sean was on the field while Jeromy recovered from a broken bone in his foot during his redshirt season.

It's an understatement to say they are eager to be on the field together for that first play call that requires Sean to line up to Jeromy's left with a running back carrying the ball their way.

"I think it's a compliment for us to play next to each other and blocking people together," Jeromy Irwin said. "It's definitely fun. It's going to be a fun three years."

Having them finally together could provide a big boost to a CU offense that has struggled to move the ball and score points with consistency for years now.

Henry can't wait to see her sons finally on the field at the same time again. Those high school games suddenly seem like a long time ago.

"I can't explain it, but when they both play together on the O-line, something special happens," Henry said. "I hope that continues this year when they both step on the field and the fans of CU get to see the magic."

Meanwhile, John Irwin is serving in an Army Airborne unit in North Carolina. He's 6-foot, 180 pounds and has overcome a broken leg suffered in a bicycle accident when he was a child. It caused him to walk with a limp for a time and might have short-circuited any dreams he might have had of playing alongside his brothers.

But John had other interests.

Henry had to make the trips to the restroom speedy during high school football games Jeromy and Sean played in Cypress, Texas, before coming to CU. John was on the field at halftime playing baritone in the high school band.

CU left tackle Jeromy Irwin, right, redshirted last season with a broken bone in his foot.
CU left tackle Jeromy Irwin, right, redshirted last season with a broken bone in his foot. (Cliff Grassmick / Daily Camera)

The three boys have an older sister, Nikki, who has already earned a college degree. Sean and Jeromy say the fact that all of Henry's children have fared so well is a testament to a woman who did many different jobs to raise them as a single mother for about half of their childhood.

"She was very good with money," Sean Irwin said. "I always go back and ask her if I need help with money because she knows."

Henry said she received plenty of help from extended family over the years after she chose to move her kids from Arkansas to the Houston area where she had relatives. She also met her husband, Mike, whom she credits for playing an integral role in her sons developing an appreciation for academics as well as athletics.

Ann and Mike confronted some enormous grocery bills when the Irwin brothers became teenagers and their appetites expanded. It was just one of myriad challenges of raising four kids separated by only three years in age.

"The kids learned early when I was single that they had to help," Henry said. "All my kids learned to cook and help with the chores. The boys' appetite kicked in about 7th grade. When I cooked pot roast, I always got about seven pounds of meat along with all the veggies. When Mike came into our lives, he helped so much with the cooking and planning of meals."

"The house was a disaster after we left," Jeromy Irwin said.

The Henrys will travel to Colorado in two weeks to watch Jeromy and Sean play next to each other in the season opener against Colorado State at Sports Authority Field in Denver.

Sean Irwin said there is something a little more special, a little more emotional about being on the field battling next to a brother. He said it puts a charge in him to see Jeromy doing well and he has a very similar reaction on the rare occasions when an opponent gets the best of his big little brother.

"It's brings our intensity up," Sean Irwin said. "Since I like blocking, I like to see him pancake somebody. I'll get up in his face."

John Irwin still hasn't seen his brothers play in person in college. They don't know if it will ever happen because of the nature of his commitment to the Army. John gets time off each year but it generally comes outside the football season.

"We think about him a lot because we were pretty close when we were at home," Jeromy Irwin said. "I do miss him. It's kind of hard because me and Sean are close, but it's like we're missing a part without him. We think about him day to day, but he's in the Army and he's doing well for himself."

Contact BuffZone.com Writer Kyle Ringo at ringok@dailycamera.com or on Twitter: @KyleRingo.