Not every 17-year-old could handle being the little brother of hip-hop star Ice Spice but Joey Gaston embraces it. The starting quarterback for Iona Prep has used his sister's recent success as motivation on the football field, and it’s worked. After taking his high school team to the New York State championship this past fall as a junior, Joey has his eyes on creating his own path of stardom whether it's on the football field or in modeling.
"I'm a really proud younger brother," Gaston tells Complex. "She created a path that makes me want to work harder. It's like damn, I see what she's doing now and it makes me want to do it even more."
Before carving out her entertainment career, Ice Spice was a collegiate athlete for for Purchase College as a volleyball player. You could say she set the standard in the family as an athlete first but when asked who was the better athlete, Joey would not give his siser the athletic nod.
Having a sister with a high profile like Ice Spice puts a target on your back as well. Throughout the Iona Prep season, Joey was heckled by fans and opposing players when he was on the field but he used it as fuel.
"I was playing in the semifinals of the playoffs, second half we're getting ready to go on the field," Gaston says. "I hear the student section like, 'all right, he's coming, he's coming.' They start clapping and saying 'we love Ice Spice' *clap clap* 'we love Ice Spice. Next drive, I threw a touchdown and I went to the sidelines and I started clapping."
Joey has aspirations of playing in the NFL one day as he models his game after Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray. In his junior season, he compiled just under 2200 passing yards to go along with 740 rushing yards and an overall total of 24 touchdowns. We sat down with Joey Gaston to talk about what it's like having Ice Spice as a sibling, his football career, growing up in the Bronx, and more.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
How was this past season for you and what are you looking forward to next year?
This past season was an amazing experience. It was a rollercoaster of emotions. It was up and down throughout every single week. I was so glad to be able to get to the championship because that was what we were hoping for from the beginning of the season. I'm gonna miss all my seniors. But next season, we're looking to go get that ring 100 percent.
Do you feel like getting there and not winning it made you guys a little bit more hungry going into next year?
Yeah, 100 percent. Everybody had tears on their face. We only lost by one point. I love all of my teammates, every single one of them. It definitely puts a little bit of pain in everybody's heart. It makes you hit the weight room just a little bit more than you usually do. I’m already ready for next season.
That was obviously a time consuming and taxing journey. But you've also been modeling on the side a little bit. Is football first priority first or do they both get equal attention?
Yeah I've been doing both. My schedule allows me to do both which is a great thing. I have school and then I have practice as well, being able to be a model kind of gives me space to do both. I'm all in for both.
Your sister's fame has been growing as you move through high school. Do you feel like life feels a little surreal right now or does it still feel like you’re a normal high school student?
Yea it's definitely a little bit surreal. It's an incredible experience to be able to watch my sister become who she wanted to become. I'm a really proud younger brother. And I know that as long as I keep doing what I'm doing, once I make it, she's going to be a really proud older sister.. We're just creating a path, you know, she created a path that makes me want to work harder.
It's like damn, I see what she's doing now and it makes me want to do it even more. We're all on the same team and I support her percent.
So does she get the time to make it to any of your games?
No she wasn't able to go to any games, but she did watch a lot of games online when she got the chance. And she would actually text me before and after the games. She texts me like, “I know you're killing it out there. I'm proud of you and who you became."
Her being there and watching my games and being able to text me after sits in my heart because it's like, I know she has such a busy schedule. It makes me happy.
You're probably playing against dudes who know who your sister is. Are you getting trash talk from defenses?
Nothing too crazy but I'll give you an example. I was playing in the semifinals of the playoffs, second half we're getting ready to go on the field. I hear the student section like, “all right, he's coming, he's coming." They start clapping and saying “We love Ice Spice” *clap clap* “we love Ice Spice”. It was a cool feeling. Next drive I threw a touchdown so I went to the sidelines and I started clapping. I was like, "y’all like that?”
Defensive ends get a sack and be like “you thought I was feelin’ you?” They give me a little line or whatever and it just adds to the competitiveness because I'm like, “watch what’s going to happen next play?” It's all love.
I was reading that you played against a team where the student section all had on orange wigs?
Yeah actually after that game, one of the student section guys gave my teammate one of the wigs on our way in. We got in the locker room and he was like “I got a surprise for you." He handed it to me and I was like, “nah, no way."
So you grew up in the Bronx originally and then moved north for football. How's that transition been for you, do you miss the Bronx?
Of course I miss the Bronx. The one thing I do miss about the Bronx is being able to just walk outside of my apartment and walk down the block or whatever and get McDonald's or go to the deli. Now it’s like 10 minutes just to go to McDonald's. But I'm glad I'm in a safer environment. That's really the whole reason we moved was because we wanted to be in a safer environment.
Do you model your game after any one particular?
One thing about me is I don't really watch football at all. I don't watch the NFL, I don't watch college. My dad's trying to make me get into that and everything, but I don't really watch football that much myself. However there’s two quarterbacks that I would compare myself to Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray. They kind of have gone through the same thing I'm going through right now. Those two are my kind of people. I could be in that position. I see myself in the NFL doing the same things they do.
How’d you get into football if you don’t watch it?
So basically, I was a little kid, right? Like really little. My dad picked me up one day after he was watching a 49ers game and he was just so happy. He picked me up and all that. He was so happy and so proud that I felt something in my heart. I'm like I want to go out there and I want to play football. I want to make him proud the way, you know, the way TV does.
Oh so it’s a 49ers household?
Yep big time Niners household.
Speaking of the household, we’re in the middle of the holidays. Does everyone make it home? What are the holidays like in the Gaston house?
Yeah, 100 percent. It's a place where my sister can just come over and I feel like she's home. We usually keep it strictly family. I try to wake up as early as I can and wake my little sister up. We wake our parents up they’re a little slow to wake up now. We open presents, record each other, and capture memories. It's like a normal household.
Isis (Ice Spice) is older right? Was she protective?
I just looked at her as an older sister. She was always doing her thing. She actually played volleyball and I would go to some of her games. I was a little kid, you know, we're pretty far apart in age. I was like, damn, I could be home playing video games. But I was like, nah, I got to go support her. I’ve been supporting her the whole way through.
I’m glad you brought up volleyball. Who has more athletic genes?
That's not even a question. We already know the answer to that. You know, it was me all the way. She can spit bars but I’m all about the athletics.
What do you remember about her game?
I remember watching her play. She was always one of the smallest ones on the court as well. She's obviously not that tall for a volleyball player. So like me seeing that, you know, I can relate it to me because she's not she's not the tallest one on the court and I'm not the tallest one on the field. So it's like we both have the same sports journey. This is a future I want to chase and she focused on a lot of different things. But when she was out there, she did her thing, you know what I'm saying? I used to be so proud of her whenever she got a little point or whatever. I don't really know too much about volleyball, so I couldn't really get into the the positions and all of that but when I was there she did her thing.