Rutgers vs. Pitt presents Graham-Greene brotherly battle

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Like most Pitt seniors, Ray Graham has plenty of family in town this weekend for his final game at Heinz Field.

Even with Thanksgiving, there's one member of Graham's visiting family that the Panthers running back won't see until he takes the field Saturday against Rutgers.

Then, Graham will try to evade a tackle from his brother, Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene.

"It's funny because we've been doing this since we were babies," Graham said. "We've been playing against each other or playing with each other, so I guess it's nothing new. For us, it's another game. It's just something to talk about at the dinner table."

This will be the fourth and final installment of the Graham-Greene sibling rivalry at the collegiate level. As it stands, Graham and Pitt hold a 2-1 edge over Greene and the Scarlet Knights.

The two grew up in Elizabeth, N.J., in separate households. They have the same father, but different mothers. They always were close, and both played football at Elizabeth High School.

Like most kids, they said they wanted to grow up to play in the NFL or NBA.

"We just grew up saying we wanted to be the best, we strive to be the best," Graham said. "We had to sacrifice a lot of things, like giving up your Saturdays and your weekends, things like that, to be here right now."

Both brothers have arrived as elite collegiate players and legitimate NFL prospects, and both also had to overcome adversity this past offseason.

Graham was rehabilitating from an ACL injury that ended his 2011 season, and Greene had to recover from a broken ankle suffered in the Pinstripe Bowl.

The two talked regularly, and used each other as motivation to get back on the field this season.

"It's kind of crazy how God works in mysterious ways," Graham said. "Me and him, we'd push each other. We'd call each other from time to time, let each other know this is a grind for us. How bad do we want it?"

Both have established themselves as 100 percent back from their injuries. Graham is Pitt's leading rusher with 835 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. Greene ranks 11th in the Big East Conference and leads the Scarlet Knights with 10.7 tackles per game.

"He's been playing tremendous, so has Rutgers' team, in general," Graham said. "Their defense is good."

The two find time to talk several times a week, even this week.

"We talk, and it ain't always about football," Graham said. "It's about life, just about everything. But we always call each other the day before the game and speak, so [today] I'll talk to him make sure he got out here safe. Then it's on Saturday."

Graham, though, has not lost sight of the bigger picture. It'll be his final game at Heinz Field, and Pitt needs a win to maintain any hope of bowl eligibility.

"It's Rutgers vs. Pitt at the end of the day," Graham said. "He's going to try and get a good hit on me anytime he can, and I'm going to try my best to dodge the hits."

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Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com or on Twitter: @SWernerPG.


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