Who knew when
At the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, these former teammates at the University of Washington will take their friendly, but still fierce, rivalry to the next level. The ultimate level. Trufant, the Falcons’ first-round selection in April’s NFL Draft, will be at right cornerback for the home team. Kearse, who signed with the Seahawks as a rookie free agent last year, will be here, there and seemingly everywhere as a big-play receiver for the visiting team.
“It’s going to be cool,” Kearse, who grew up in Lakewood, Wash., said Wednesday. “Me and him kind of had a little rivalry thing back in college. It’s just the competitor in both of us. We both like to compete. And to go against him is going to be a lot of fun, to bring back those type of memories we had back at UW.”
Actually, these two have been grinding against each other way before they arrived at Washington.
“I’ve known Tru for a long time,” Kearse said. “I played with him in youth football. I’ve been around him for a long time.”
How long? “Since fourth grade,” Kearse said.
But here they are, on the biggest stage in their chosen profession. One on offense. The other on defense. One playing for his hometown team. The other playing against his hometown team, and the team his older brother played for.
“It’s pretty cool,” Trufant said. “Obviously I’ve got to prepare every week the same regardless of who it is. But I watched (the Seahawks) for 10 years, watching my brother when he was there for 10 years. So it’s definitely big just to be out there playing against the team I grew up watching.”
Those who have watched Trufant most closely during his rookie season have been impressed by what they’ve seen – and it goes beyond the fact that he looks and sounds like Marcus, to the comparisons of their games.
“I told him early in the game that I respected his brothers and I respect him,” Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith told reporters on Sunday after Carolina’s 31-17 victory over the Falcons. “The Trufants are always good. You can tell (Desmond’s) brother have taught him a lot of stuff. He’s patient. Getting in and out of breaks, he’s very fluid.”
“Tru is quick. He gets in and out of breaks. He’s a good cover corner,” Kearse said. “Definitely going (to be good to go) against him and just his feistiness. Our rivalry, it was feisty. There was some trash-talking. Sometimes we would get into it. But that’s the type of stuff you need, a player to push you. And he definitely pushed me at UW, as I tried to do for him.”
Countered Trufant: “Jermaine is a confident guy. He really believes he can make every play, regardless of what happens and he’s tough. He’s competitive. That’s what I love about him. Hopefully, I can interfere with that a little bit.”
And that brings the conversation back to this Kearse vs. Trufant – or Trufant vs. Kearse – deal. Who schooled who in those practice-field battles at the University of Washington?
“You ask me, I’m going to say the same thing that he’s going to say if you ask him,” Trufant offered with a laugh. “We were always going to be competing. We (made) each other better. So it’s going to be fun going against him.”
Make that going against him again, and still.