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October 6, 2010Family.
Both words are commonly heard in the sports world. Whether used to describe the atmosphere in a locker rooms or the camaraderie between teammates, the relationships between those involved in an athletic organization are best characterized in those terms -- family, brothers.
Families and brothers of the literal variety are notable components in sport as well, especially football -- Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning, Carson and Jordan Palmer, Thomas and Julius Jones are just a few examples from this season in the NFL.
Lonnie and Jared Edwards are another, more unique example.
While the Manning brothers have played against each other twice in the NFL, they were never on the field at the same time. The Palmer brothers aren't even on different teams, Jordan is Carson's backup with Cincinnati. Both of the Jones brothers play running back and, like the Mannings, never see the field at the same time.
Unlike the Mannings, the Palmers, the Jones and countless others throughout the sport's history, the Edwards brothers are about to join a small fraternity of brothers that have gone head-to-head in a football game.
Lonnie, the oldest, is a junior at Texas Tech and has been the team's starting left guard since midway through the 2009 season. Jared, a sophomore, is a key reserve at linebacker and defensive end for the Baylor Bears. On Saturday, the two will play against each other for the first time in their lives.
"They were pretty competitive (growing up), but they were always teammates," their mother, Misti Stanfield-Edwards, said. "They hunted together, they fished together and did pretty much everything together.
"This will be the first time they have ever been competitors. Jared is playing defensive end and Lonnie is playing left guard, so they will line up against each other on the same side."
With Lonnie and Jared expected to go head-to-head at several times on Saturday, their family is put in an unusual sounding position. How does one cheer in these cases?
"We had some shirts made up last year that we wore," their mother said. "They were divided shirts. They have both of their names on it and, basically, we cheered the whole game. I'm sitting up there and I'm sure I'm real annoying because I cheer the whole time. I get my Guns Up and I Sic'Em Bears."
Unencumbered by any dilemmas over the rooting logistics, Lonnie and Jared are understandably excited about the game.
"I have always thought a lot about it," Jared said on Tuesday. "I have always wanted to go against him on opposite sides, just to make the game more interesting. It's obviously a big thing for me and him and my family, to come together as we play each other."
"It is going to be really exciting," Lonnie said hours later. "I have always been the one to protect him while he was growing up and, being the big brother, now it's kind of time to be the big bully brother. It's going to be really good. I am really excited about this."
They almost played against each other last year, when the Red Raiders and Bears faced off at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. Lonnie was entrenched as a starter at that point, while Jared had already played in five games as a redshirt freshman.
"It was really special, just seeing us both on the field," Lonnie said. "We both came from a really small town, and not many people make it to a big-time, Division I program. I told him (on the field), 'Hey man, we made it. I will see you next year when you are playing.'"
The Edwards brothers' matchup will be for far more than bragging rights as Saturday's game is extremely important to both teams. The Red Raiders are riding a two-game losing streak and are looking to right the ship before beginning a five-game stretch against teams that are a combined 19-2. The Bears, meanwhile, are 4-1 and need just two more wins to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1994.
So for 60 minutes this weekend, the Edwards brothers will be opponents, members of separate families -- Lonnie said he is approaching the game as if Jared is "another guy, another opponent" -- but after the game clock hits triple zeros, all will be back to normal.
"Last year, I could see them from the stands, both looking for each other after the game," Stanfield-Edwards said. "It was really sweet. They hugged each other and they were brothers again."
Taylor Hair contributed to this story.
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