Growing up in Cranberry Township, C.J. and Jordan Brown were always competitive.
Whether they were playing pingpong in their game room or shooting baskets in a game of "PIG" in the driveway, Jordan always wanted to beat his older brother -- and C.J. was never going to let him.
That competitive spirit lives today and will soon be taken to a new level: the two brothers, now both NCAA Division I football players, open their season head-to-head when C.J.'s Maryland squad plays host to Jordan and James Madison University on Aug. 30.
When the pair returned to Western Pennsylvania for a few days this summer, the rivalry had already begun.
"There's a little bit of jabbing going back and forth, primarily coming from the younger one," said Clark Brown, the boys' father. "The older one, C.J., is very quiet in relation to the opportunity and just telling his brother 'You've got to bring it,' that's all. So there was a little banter going back and forth at the dinner table."
While being competitive is nothing new to the Brown brothers, the opportunity to actually compete on the same athletic field is.
To this point, their age difference has never allowed it -- C.J. graduated from Seneca Valley High School in 2009; Jordan began playing the following year.
A unique set of circumstances allowed for the opportunity, with both players coming into the game at drastically different points of their careers.
For Jordan, it will be his first game after redshirting last season as a freshman. For C.J., the contest will mark the beginning of his final college season after being granted a rare sixth year of eligibility to make up for lost time due to injuries.
When the family found out about the possibility that the two brothers might play one another early last year, they were ecstatic for the chance to finally see them compete at the same time.
"It's very exciting; it's a very proud moment for our family," Clark said. "It's a real honor, a real privilege for these kids to be able to walk on the field every day and it's really the first time that we will have the opportunity to see them on the same athletic field together."
The Brown family has already begun planning their trip, right down to what they're going to wear. Their mother, Kimberly, is in the process of designing shirts that will support both of their loyalties, Clark said, with the biggest loyalty being the name on the back.
The boys, meanwhile, have an added dimension to look forward to: Jordan, who was recruited to James Madison as a wide receiver, will be playing free safety to begin his college career. Should he find playing time, Jordan will have the opportunity for his first tackle -- or first interception -- to come against his older brother.
"The only thing I told both of them is no matter what happens, they both have a job to do. They have to go out and compete and both help their team win," Clark said. "At the end of the day, they are family, they are brothers and they need to be respectful of that whether it's on the field, off the field, before the game, during the game or after the game."
Bragging rights aside, both players will be motivated to have their team start the season in the right direction in a sport where each game is precious and the outcome can make or break a season. That's especially true for C.J., who is looking forward to the challenge of leading Maryland into its first season in the Big Ten Conference.
To be successful, he'll have to stay healthy. He missed two games last season after missing the entire previous year with a torn ACL. His game -- and Maryland's offense -- relies on him running the football, leaving it for him to avoid big hits that can knock him out of the game. C.J. said he's used to that, however, and has high aspirations for the upcoming year.
"I think right now is just to lead this team to win," he said of his goals. "Take advantage of the opportunity that I do have this sixth year. Go out there and win and just go out there and have fun. I see myself as an All-Big Ten QB and hopefully I can take my team to a Rose Bowl and that'll be a great way to end my senior season."
Jordan, meanwhile, has an entire career ahead of him, and C.J. believes his brother will evolve into a smart defender. For the remainder of that career -- and beyond -- he'll always be able to look back upon where it all began: in College Park, Md., family in the stands with big brother under center opposing him.
"It's definitely a special opportunity. It's one that we'll cherish and I'm looking forward to it," C.J. said. "I'm going to make the most of the opportunity and 20 years down the line we'll be talking about it."
Jourdon LaBarber: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @jourdonlabarber