BYU vs. Kansas takes Lassiter brothers’ sibling rivalry to another level

Brothers Darius and Kwinton Lassiter say the meeting between the Cougars and Jayhawks would have been special for their father. Kwamie Lassiter played at Kansas in the ‘90s before his NFL career.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Darius Lassiter (5) and Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Kedon Slovis (10) celebrate a touchdown as BYU hosts Southern Utah University, NCAA football in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023.

Competition was baked into the way of life in the Lassiter household.

Growing up, Kwamie II, Kwinton and Darius would sling metal bats over their shoulders and head out to the neighborhood with a tennis ball. They’d have a mini-home run derby, seeing who could hit the ball the farthest.

They’d talk trash to each other about who was the fastest. They’d race over and over again until the result was decisive. Same thing with basketball, football or anything else that might come up.

“Man, we would see who could drink a bottle of water the fastest,” said Kwinton Lassiter, now a cornerback at Kansas. “It’s just the nature, like we just compete without even knowing.”

Competition and family are still intertwined. And the Lassiter boys had this weekend’s game between BYU and Kansas circled for a special reason.

Their father, the late Kwamie Lassiter, was a Kansas legend who would go on to play a decade in the NFL. And as all three boys grew up into college football prospects, the hope was that one day they’d translate that household competition onto a bigger stage. Kwamie certainly hoped so, wanting to see his boys play on the same college field that he once played on in Lawrence.

This Saturday, that will finally happen as Darius Lassiter’s BYU team will travel to play Kwinton Lassiter’s Kansas. They’ll play in front of the same crowd that once cheered on their father.

The fact that Kwamie won’t be there to see, having passed away two years ago from a heart attack at the age of 49, made this week even more meaningful for the Lassiters.

“I just know he is smiling,” Darius Lassiter said. “It is something he wanted to see happen. We finally get to have it happen. It is just a big day for the family. Having two brothers compete and go at each other.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Darius Lassiter (5) makes a catch as Southern Utah Thunderbirds cornerback Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson (31) defends, in football a between the Southern Utah Thunderbirds and the Brigham Young Cougars, at LaVell Edwards Stadium, on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023.

The journey to this moment, though, was more complicated than you might think.

Maybe for Kwamie’s eldest son, Kwamie II, it was a clear path to Kansas. He came out of high school in Arizona and committed to the Jayhawks right away. He’d become an All-Big 12 receiver and eventually land on the Cincinnati Bengals.

But for the two younger boys, the route was harder.

Their father played at Kansas in the early ‘90s and helped the Jayhawks win the Aloha Bowl over BYU in ‘92. Kwamie Lassiter had 11 solo tackles and a pass breakup. He’d then play on the Cardinals, Chargers and Rams. The defining moment was when he came up with four interceptions to get the Cardinals into the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.

(Miles Kennedy | AP) Arizona Cardinals defender Kwamie Lassiter (42) wraps up Philadelphia Eagles running back Dorsey Levens (25) and on Nov. 17, 2002.

Kwinton and Darius went to high school in Kansas. They attended Jayhawks games, watching their older brother play. They’d seen Jayhawks memorabilia lying around the house. They’d heard their father’s stories.

But they didn’t get noticed by Kansas out of high school. In fact, nobody really showed interest.

The brothers ended up at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan. After two years there, Kwinton still couldn’t get a scholarship offer. He walked on with the Jayhawks. As for Darius, Kansas didn’t pay him any mind and he wound up at Eastern Michigan.

“They had the same opportunity as any other school to recruit me after I entered the transfer portal,” Darius Lassiter said. “After you kind of don’t get that offer out of junior college, you kind of move on from wanting to be there.”

Last season, Darius Lassiter racked up 400 yards receiving at EMU and entered the transfer portal with Kansas off his radar.

(Brody Schmidt | AP) Kansas cornerback Kwinton Lassiter (28) warms up prior to an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, in Stillwater, Okla. Lassiter is the brother of BYU wide receiver Darius Lassiter.

“I kinda wanted to go somewhere where I could build my own legacy,” he said. “Where I could show people that, ‘Oh, I didn’t get this opportunity because of my brothers or my dad going there.’”

At that point, it seemed safe to assume the Lassiter brothers would never share a field in Lawrence.

But then BYU entered the mix. Wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake needed a deep threat, and Lassiter could be the answer. Other schools showed interest, but coordinator Aaron Roderick’s offense was enough of an enticement for Lassiter.

Then he looked at the schedule and saw BYU’s first Big 12 game would be on the road at Kansas.

“We circled it on the calendar,” Kwinton said. “We said we’re going to worry about week one, two, three. But once week four comes, it’s on.”

The Lassiters figured there would be a good chance they might even line up against each other this weekend. Kwinton had become a leader on the defense, recording two interceptions in Kansas’ win over Illinois two weeks ago.

Darius was finding his footing in BYU’s offense too — going for a 42-yard touchdown against Southern Utah and recording over 100 yards of offense.

“We talked about [lining up] the day I signed with BYU,” Lassiter said. “Just talked a little family trash with each other.”

But the biggest thing for them was knowing that the game was something their father would have wanted.

Last week, Kansas football shared highlights of Kwamie Lassiter at the old Kansas football field. It was one of the first times both brothers had seen it.

And it came at a good time, they said, helping them visualize the fulfillment of a dream — from Kwamie Lassiter playing at Memorial Stadium to this.

“It’s a surreal moment,” Kwinton said. “He’d be very happy for us, proud of our accomplishments.”