NAUGATUCK — Matt Burke is a mere two minutes older than his twin brother, Bryan.
“That’s something that he’ll always have on me,” said Bryan. “A lot of people call me Matt’s little brother. There has always been a little competition among us because of that. In my mind, I have to be better. When I hit the weight room, I go a little extra harder. It does feel good when I get to beat him in something. But it’s all in good fun.”
In the classroom, Bryan has the better grade-point average, 3.4, compared to Matt’s 3.1.
On the football field, the two Naugatuck senior linebackers are both having stellar seasons and are two of the six captains this season for the Greyhounds.
Born March 1, 1996, the 17-year-old Burkes have shared the same bedroom their entire lives. And their mom, Virginia, shares the same birthday as her sons.
As competitive as they may be, Bryan says it’s Matt who helps him with typical teenage difficulties.
“Matt’s best quality is that he can make friends with anyone,” Bryan said. “People go to him when they are sad and lonely. We both have our own problems. When we need to get something off our chests and not in the best of moods, we’ll walk around town, sometimes for 20 minutes or even two to three hours and talk things out. It really helps.”
That camaraderie carries over to the football field.
Matt Burke couldn’t imagine football without his brother alongside.
“Ever since Pop Warner, no matter how we do, playing great or terrible, whether we are up or down in a game, Bryan is the one player on the team who maintains composure until the very end,” said Matt. “He’s got great leadership qualities.”
Bryan proved that in a recent game against Wilby when he thought some of his teammates weren’t as focused as needed.
“Some of the kids were pointing to the sky and talking about the stars and other things and not about football,” Bryan said. “I got real emotional and told everyone in the huddle that we needed to pick it up and realize we were in a big game.”
That intangible singles out the Burke tandem, noted Naugatuck’s first-year head coach, Craig Bruno.
“They are two of the favorite kids I’ve ever coached,” said the former Bunnell coach. “They play hard every day. I’ve never been more prouder to name two captains. They are great leaders on and off the field, in school and outside, and in everything they do.”
Bruno referred to the Burkes’ class role. Matt was the treasurer of the junior class and is currently the secretary while Bryan is the vice president of the senior class and also held a class office last year.
Being a part of the school’s decisions is important to Matt, who values the class fundraisers, the blood drives and other community projects they have helped to plan.
“I feel the high school years are way too short, but things we do create memories for a lifetime,” Matt said. “We can help create memories for a lifetime and help people and represent Naugatuck High well.”
From an appearance standpoint, Matt displays a clean-cut look, Army haircut look, different from Bryan’s long wavy dark hair.
‘When I was a younger, I always had longer hair,” Matt said. “When the football season starts, it just gets in the way, so I have it cut. I like the clean-cut look.”
Bryan likes to be different from his “older” brother.
“If I shaved my hair, we would look identical,” Bryan said. “In the past, people would always mix us up. Having longer hair distinguishes me.”
But Bryan said that, all differences aside, “I can’t imagine Matt and I going our separate ways next year.”
“Bryan has always kept me on my toes and has always been there for me through thick and thin,” added Matt. “I am very lucky.”
“We both are,” added Bryan.