We bleed green.
That’s what the Otton grandchildren were told growing up.
To the point, in fact, that Kennedy Croft thought it was literal.
“I actually believed that,” she said. “My grandpa (Sid Otton) told me we bleed green, and I believed it until like the fourth grade.”
Her grandpa had a reason for convincing his offspring of that. He has been the football coach at Tumwater High School for 42 years and is the winningest coach in Washington state football history.
Croft, a sophomore, is one of three Otton grandchildren attending Tumwater. Kylie Otton, a senior, and brother Cade, a junior, are the other two.
And all three will compete for state titles this weekend — again.
Kylie, a swimmer, will compete in the Class 2A state meet for the fourth consecutive year. She qualified individually in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly, and swims on Tumwater’s relay teams.
Cade leads the T-Birds football team, which is chasing its first title since 2010, in tackles with 96.
And, with 383 kills this season, Croft anchors the volleyball team, which is competing for back-to-back titles.
Athletic prowess in the bloodline is something else the three grew up with.
“It was part of our Otton culture,” Kylie said. “We were never really pressured to do anything, but I think we just wanted to when we grew up around that athletic culture.”
Though, her father Tim Otton, one of Tumwater football’s assistant coaches, attests to some pressure.
“My kids were brainwashed from an early age,” he joked.
Tim played football for his father, Sid, at Tumwater, and moved back to the area after playing at Weber State University in Utah.
“My wife (Sally) didn’t quite understand why, when we were looking for houses, I wanted to find something in the Tumwater School District, just because I wanted our kids to be T-Birds,” Tim said. “It’s kind of in the blood, and I wanted our kids to experience what I got to experience being here.”
Sally likens Tumwater to the Bermuda Triangle — once you’re in it, you never leave.
Tumwater volleyball coach Tana Otton, Kennedy’s mother, moved back to the area from Bellingham with her kids — Kennedy’s older brother, Jayden, also played football for the T-Birds — before Kennedy started elementary school.
Which has made family reunions normal since childhood.
“We were pretty close, we hung out together all the time,” Kylie said.
“All the time, we still do,” Kennedy interjected. “We have family dinners for everyone’s birthday.”
“And Christmas and Thanksgiving everyone spends together,” Cade finished.
Often at Sid and grandmother Marjean’s house, where they’ll sit in the living room and chat, or pour over old photos for a laugh.
And if not there, the three see each other and the rest of the family at school.
The other day, Cade walked into the school’s copy center where Sid and Tana were both getting ready for practice.
“Cade walks by and pokes his head in, and it’s like, family reunion in the copy center,” Tana said. “We’re just always all around.”
At each other’s houses, in the school hallways and often at each other’s athletic events.
“It’s really cool all being around each other,” Cade said. “Seeing how good a swimmer Kylie is — she’s a beast in the pool — and Kennedy is a stud on the volleyball court, so she’s fun to watch there.”
All three begin the quest for a title Friday, and the family will take a divide-and-conquer approach to make it to each event.
Even Brad Otton — a Tumwater product who won the Rose Bowl with USC in 1996 and is Tim and Tana’s brother — flew the rest of the family up to watch.
“I think that’s the best part of this whole state experience, is that we get them to come hang out for a week,” Tana said.
The three grandchildren said they’ll likely exchange encouraging texts the morning of the events.
Though, Kylie, being the oldest, offered some words of wisdom to the other two a bit in advance.
“Just try your best,” she said. “It’s state — that’s all you can do is try your best. It’s really rewarding just to be there. If you win, it’s just a cherry on top.”