Brotherly love: Nolan and Miles Corpening team up for the first time with Spain’s Barbera Rookies

Football is a sport built on brotherhood and this season, the Barbera Rookies will be taking that literally.

Making the jump to the Spanish first division this year, the team from the outskirts of Barcelona has kept it in the family with their American content and brought in a pair of brothers, Nolan and Miles Corpening, to patrol the defensive secondary.

The siblings, who hail from Charlotte, North Carolina, are playing side by side for the first time in their lives more than 4,000 miles away from their hometown, and the Corpening clan back home couldn’t be happier.

“They might like the idea more than we do,” Nolan laughed, noting that his parents almost never miss a game. “They were really excited about it, but especially our mother. She loves when we are all together. She knew I was a little lonely out here in Europe, so she’s happy I’ve got my brother.”

The older of the two by three years, Nolan was the first to make his way to Europe. After a successful college career at North Carolina Central University, he learned about football overseas while playing in a short-lived US experimental league. He jumped at the opportunity, first playing in the Czech Republic with Blades Usti nad Labem in March of 2020, before making the jump to the Prague Black Panthers of the Austrian league and playing the final three games of the season with Finland’s UNC Crusaders.

The experience was better than he possibly could  have imagined and his first thoughts went to his younger brother, still trying to continue his career at Reinhardt University in the NAIA. Nolan began trying to negotiate a situation where the two could play together and the Rookies offered that chance.

“I was excited,” Miles said of when he first heard the news. “My last season was 2019 and my college career didn’t go as well as I had planned, so I was excited for the opportunity to get back on the field and continue to write my story.”

In many ways, it felt like the continuation of a lifelong trend. Miles had always followed in Nolan’s football footsteps but had a tendency to do things quicker than his elder sibling.

“My pops told us that he put the ball in our hand at a young age and Nolan took off running with it. Once I was able to walk, I was following behind him,” Miles explained. “It was kind of just something that we just gravitated to. It wasn’t really much pressure. It was just an instant love when they put the ball in the crib.”

For Nolan, the value of having his younger brother around is hard to put into words.

“There ain’t too many people that can bring me back down to earth or correct me when I feel some type of way or when I’m wrong and I actually listen,” he admitted.

The trust he has with his brother grounds him and the pair’s relationship has quickly translated onto the field quickly. Despite never suiting up in the same game before, the two seem to innately be on the same page.

“It’s a pretty natural flow. In the household where we grew up together, we always talked football so we’ve got pretty much similar minds when it comes to football,” Miles said. It’s not really a lot of assuming where he’s gonna be at. I kind of know what type of player he is. He knows what type of player I am. It’s just football.”

“It’s almost like I can predict what’s gonna happen on that side of the field,” Nolan added.

So far, the pair have only practiced together, as Nolan sat out the season opener with a mild ankle injury. When they do debut their brotherly connection in live game action, it should benefit the whole defense, with them both sharing a single voice from their respective safety spots.

“Growing up, I vocally was a leader amongst my peers and he vocally was a leader amongst his peers. Now, it’s almost like a echo,” Nolan said. “If he says something, I’m already thinking it or if I’m saying something, he’s already thinking it. He knows to say it to me and to the team as well, and I’m speaking to him and to the team as well. It’s never just like a brother to brother thing.”

That’s exactly what the Rookies were bargaining for when they brought the pair in, an instant chemistry that could elevate everyone around them. Newly arrived in the Spanish first division, Barbera is looking to make noise in 2021 and shocked many with a 47-0 drubbing of the Mallorca Voltors in the season opener.

While a brotherly reunion is a feel good headline, it isn’t the reason the Corpenings are there.

“It’s great that I’m going to be with my brother, but regardless, it’s about winning the championship,” Miles says. “If you want to continue to play, you’ve got to win where you are at. If you’ve got bigger dreams individually or as a team, it all starts with winning. That’s all I’ve been wanting to preach, even with the language barriers, championship, championship, championship.”

That is a sentiment shared by Nolan, who believes that the Rookies are the most talented team he’s been on since arriving in Europe.

“This is championship or bust, it’s really no excuses,” he emphasized. “Nobody should be able to stop us besides ourselves. If we stay out of our own way, I see us playing in May.”

Either way, this won’t be the last time we see the brothers team up in Europe, as the two have a deal in place to join the UNC Crusaders in Finland after this season. They simply hope it is with a Spanish title already under their belts.

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.