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A battle of brothers
The Babineaux Family reunion at Qwest Field on Sunday afternoon will be interrupted by this little thing called the Seahawks' critically important game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Jordan Babineaux, of course, is a versatile defensive back and special teams standout for the Seahawks, co-leaders of the NFC West. His barely older, but much bigger, brother - Jonathan - is a defensive tackle for the NFC South-leading Falcons.
"Ah, a special game," Jordan said Wednesday after practice. "Really, I'm just more so looking forward to the opportunity to something special, in the sense that I can outshine him."
Babineaux laughed when he said that, but he knows there's nothing funny about the task facing the Seahawks.
The Falcons have the conference's best record at 11-2, and they've won seven in a row. They feature an offense that is so ridiculously balanced that it usually tips the outcome of games in their favor. They also have an opportunistic defense, and are plus-11 in the all-important turnover ratio.
The Seahawks are tied with St. Louis in NFC West at 6-7, but the Rams hold the tiebreaker because of their win over the Seahawks earlier this season. Next week, the Seahawks travel to Tampa to take on the 8-5 Buccaneers, while the Falcons host the 10-3 New Orleans Saints in a game that should determine the division champion – as well as which team clinches home-field advantage through the playoffs and which enters the postseason as a wild-card team.
"We really have to get things the right way finishing up the season if we want to be playing into January," said Babineaux.
One big obstacle in that quest at Qwest this week will be the brother that even Babineaux refers to as "Monsta" - a nickname the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Jonathan earned when both were playing at Lincoln High School in Port Arthur, Texas.
"The crazy part is, I ate more than he did," said Jordan, who is two inches shorter and 90 pounds lighter than his brother. "I don't get it. But it's hereditary. My father was a large guy.
"He got the size. I got the skill."
Jonathan Babineaux has 25 tackles and three sacks this season, after collecting career-highs in both categories last season (47 and six). But the real worth of a defensive tackle is not measured only by his statistics; it's even more important that he draw double-team blocks and clog running lanes to help others get their stats.
It's Jonathan's dirty work that allows others to cleanup, and his brother doing just that for the best team in the NFC is no surprise to Babineaux.
" 'Monsta' was more so the prime athlete," he said. "He was a skilled guy. And we were talented, my high school team. I kid you not. We had some of the toughest kids and some of the most talented on one team. Competition was fierce. You might not even play. It was that real."
And it also means that the youngest of Barbara Babineaux's five children were real good. Jonathan is 11 months older than Jordan. There also are their older siblings - brothers Jeffery and Joshua; and sister Jean.
Their father died when Jordan was nine, so it was up to Barbara Babineaux to provide for her kids and keep them heading in a positive direction in an area where her youngest son admits the distractions were plentiful.
"So you can imagine the struggles," Jordan said. "It was pretty chaotic. But she found ways to keep food on the table, despite living check-to-check at times."
A lot of times, the children are unaware of their situation because it's just their life. That was not the case for Babineaux and his brothers and sister.
"We were all aware of it," Babineaux said. "Pretty much, you can tell by location - where we lived. Port Arthur is not one of the most high-income cities."
The Babineaux kids stayed out of trouble by staying active.
"After school, we did everything - whatever it was," Jordan said. "I played golf in high school. So in a sense, it kept us from straying away. Knowing the bad things that were right in front of face, staying active kind of helped us out a little."
Mission accomplished, and then some. All five graduated from college - Jordan from Southern Arkansas; Jonathan from Iowa; Jeffery from Wylie College; Joshua and Jean from Xavier.
"Whatever this means, we've got five college graduates," Jordan said. "It's pretty rare, especially where I come from."
Because of where they came from, Jordan and Jonathan have focused on giving back after they entered the NFL - Jordan as an undrafted free agent with the Seahawks in 2004; Jonathan as a second-round draft choice by the Falcons in 2005. They have formed the Babineaux Family Foundation.
"That's always been one of the things - giving back," said Jordan, who credits teammate Marcus Trufant for prompting him to start a foundation.
Trufant, a Pro Bowl cornerback during his career with the Seahawks, has the cubicle next to Babineaux's in the locker room.
"When I first got here, I saw what Tru was doing with his foundation and thought it was a good thing to do," Babineaux said. "Plus, I kind of compare Tacoma (Trufant's hometown) and Port Arthur, in the sense that it's a lot of lower-class, middle-class, struggling individuals who really are looking for someone like myself or Tru to come back down there and help them out.
"If Tru doesn't go back to Tacoma and give back to those kids and let them see where he came from, then no one will. That's how I feel when I go back to Port Arthur."
Sunday, two of Port Arthur's finest - who just happen to be brother - square off in one game that means so much to each of their teams.
"So although it's a minor battle within the Babineaux family," Jordan said, "it's bigger than that."