Same blood, different colors
Brothers Carlos and Tray Watkins spent their entire lives in the same house, the same schools and on the same football teams. But on Saturday the two were separated by 53.3 yards (the width of a football field) as Carlos’ Clemson Tigers welcomed Tray and the South Carolina State Bulldogs to Death Valley.
For 78 of the 79 players on the SCSU roster and 101 of the 102 players on the Clemson roster, this game may have been overlooked, but for the Watkins brothers, this one definitely has a circle drawn around it.
Carlos left for Clemson in on 2012 as one of the highest-rated defensive lineman recruits in the country. Tray didn't come with quite they hype his brother did, but still landed a a full football scholarship with the FCS South Carolina State Bulldogs as a defensive end.
Carlos and the Tigers got the best of the Bulldogs, 52-13, but the day meant much more for the brothers than a football game.
"It felt good," Tray said of playing against his brother. "Of course I'd love to still be playing with him but it's a good experience to see him on the other side and play against him on the collegiate level."
"It was kind of strange going against him for the first time," Carlos added. "But growing up we always played with each and wanted to beat each other at everything so it was still a competitive thing."
Surprisingly, the two admitted that they didn't talk much about the contest in the days leading up to the game.
"We would just call and motivate each other to keep working hard on the field and in school. We didn't talk about the game much," Carlos said before taking a quick jab at his brother. "He knew when it came down to it he didn't want to talk junk because of the outcome."
Tray, who is redshirting and nursing a knee injury, watched the game from the sideline as his brother recorded one tackle for loss and quarterback pressure in the Clemson win.
"I made sure to stand out on the sideline and watch him," Tray said.
After the final whistle blew, the brothers made their way to midfield and shared a hug and a handshake.
"We just dapped each other and he told me I played a good game," Carlos said. "I asked him about his knee and told him everything would be good if he keeps working hard."
Shortly after the brothers chatted and signed a few autographs, their parents and sister found them in the crowd. The immediate family was just a small fraction of the Rutherford County support that made the trip.
"It feels great to know that you have people that will come and cheer for you," Tray said.
"It's great to see guys from your hometown especially that large of an amount to cheer you on and support you," Carlos added. "I really do appreciate it a lot."
It was a chance for Carlos to welcome old coaches and teammates to his new gridiron playground.
"I keep up with them as much as I can when I go back home," Carlos said. "Them being here plays a big role because it make me more excited to perform. My boys are there and I want to put on a good show for them."
And it doesn't matter if the Watkins brothers are 8 and 9 or 18 and 19, it's always about competition and bragging rights —that is until next year when the two square off again.
"If he would have won I'm sure he would be talking trash, but I got the bragging rights," Carlos was sure to point out. "He'll probably talk a little more smack next time now that he has more experience."
The 52-13 loss hasn't dampened Tray's confidence.
"We got them next year," he said.
One thing is for certain, next year's matchup has a lot to live up to.
"Today was one of the best moments of my life," Carlos said. "My brother and I played each other in college, it's crazy, not many guys experience that."