Utah football: Eliapo will battle brother on Saturday
Ailao Eliapo remembers the summer day he and his older brother were sent into their family's backyard to clean it up.
What started as a chore became a smackdown session between the two brothers, one a high school defensive star and the other, Ailao, an incoming freshman who was tired of hearing how he'd never be as good as his older brother.
"He challenged me to beat him, to prove I could play," Ailao remembered. "He wanted me to block him and kept rushing me and beating me and beating me until there were tears coming out of my eyes," Ailao said. "Finally, out of nowhere, I pinned him, pancaked him. He was all league and this and that. I knew then I could be a football player."
The two brothers will meet again in a football contest Saturday, with more at stake than teenage pride.
Ailao, a 6-foot-2, 320-pound junior guard, will start for San Jose State on Saturday while Kenape, a 6-foot, 300-pound senior, will start for the Utes at nose tackle.
The two have talked and looked forward to Saturday as only brothers will, with each giving the other credit for being a good player, while relishing the unique opportunity to show off their skills in a stadium much larger than their backyard.
"We have talked about it a lot, almost every day," Kenape Eliapo said. "I never thought this day would come."
While the two know each other probably better than any of the other players who will be on the field Saturday, both said they don't know each other well enough that they can overlook their usual game preparations.
"I have to watch film of him; he is a respectable opponent and a good player," Kenape said. "I have to see where his strengths and weaknesses are and see what I can do to match that."
The last time they competed against one another was a high school wrestling tournament in which Kenape stopped laughing just long enough to pin his brother.
"I always picked on him when we were younger," Kenape said. "Now he is bigger than me, but we're still competing."
Kenape said they expect about 200 to 300 family members and friends to be in the stands for Saturday's game. Some will be wearing shirts for Utah and others will wear shirts for San Jose State, while others will wear shirts with the brothers' names on them, Ailao said.
While alliances might be mixed, the brothers' eagerness for Saturday's game isn't. Both are eager to face each other, with one excited to show once more how far his game has come while the other plans to be the typical older brother once more, picking on his younger brother again.
"It's going to be a blast," Kenape said.
» Senior, nose tackle, 6 feet, 300 pounds
2008 » Played in six games in a limited role after breaking his foot in the opener at Michigan
2007 » Played in all 13 games with two starts, 29 tackles
2006 » Played in 10 games and started against Tulsa
» Junior, guard, 6-foot-2, 320 pounds
2008 » Only offensive lineman to start in all 12 games
2007 » Started as defensive tackle and moved to offense midway through season
At Spartan Stadium, San Jose, Calif. Saturday, 8:30 p.m. MDT TV » ESPNU