As kids, Jason Cook and brother Jared personified the term sibling rivalry. From seeing who could finish eating the fastest to who could receive the most parental attention, the two brothers loved to compete.
This Saturday, that sibling opposition reaches a new level.
Jason, a fullback at Ole Miss and Jared, a tight end at South Carolina will face off this weekend when the Gamecocks visit the Rebels for a 1 p.m. kickoff inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The three hours of competition will be fun, but it hasn't consumed the conversation when the two talk.
"We've talked about it a little bit, but we really haven't discussed the game too much," Jason Cook said. "We'll have some bragging rights for the rest of our lives as far as the outcome of this game goes but we haven't talked too much about the game at all. We talk about a lot of other stuff that's more meaningful than the game. Please believe after the game there will be a lot of talking going on."
Ole Miss-South Carolina may not be seen as a spectacle to the rest of the SEC, but the Cook family has had this one circled for quite a while. Friends and relatives took notice when the schedule was first announced, and the preparation has brought a new definition to fandom.
"My parents are stoked," Jason Cook said. "They've got t-shirts made, hats, pins. They're coming decked out. A bunch of people are coming to the game, so they're going to have a good time.
"The shirts have both our colors and numbers. It won't be hard to pick them out. I am trying to find 20 tickets, not an easy thing on homecoming."
The one-time event will be special for the Cook brothers, but at one point, the two didn't think sharing the field would be accomplished in this fashion. Jason long assumed that Jared would be a Rebel. Unfortunately, David Cutcliffe didn't buy in to the younger brother. A commitment was certain if recruited, but the staff at the time wasn't impressed.
"Coach Cut and that staff said he wasn't fast enough," Jason said. "He ran a 4.6. He was about six-four and a half going into his senior year, but the wide receivers coach said he wasn't fast enough. When those guys left, Coach O and Coach (Noel) Mazzone came in and said, 'Holy cow, who is your brother?' I said, 'He's six-five, a good athlete, great hands.'
"By that time, though, it was too late. He already had a bad taste in his mouth from the whole Ole Miss program and them not wanting him and then all of a sudden wanting him. He had offers from Ohio State and Mississippi State and South Carolina. He took his trip to South Carolina, loved it and set his mind on going there, so that's where he's at. I didn't play much of a role in telling him where to go because he's a man and he's going to decide where he wants to go. I was disappointed that the coaches didn't recruit him and I was disappointed in the way that the whole situation was handled, but I respect him, the coaches and I totally trusted him. I'm glad he is where he is. He's having a great time and a phenomenal season so far, but it would have been nice to have No. 84 suiting up for the Ole Miss Rebels."
Since that time, Jared has evolved into a playmaker that has NFL scouts salivating. Between six-four and six-five, Jared weighs 240 pounds and has been clocked at 4.38 in the forty.
Heading into Saturday, he is also South Carolina's top receiver, totaling 262 yards on 19 receptions. Jared has the ability to stretch the field and can already be penciled in for all-league honors barring injury.
Jason just shakes his head when asked what Jared would do in Ole Miss' offense, but he is content with baby brother being elsewhere.
"I'm over it," Jason Cook said. "It's a neat idea. In a storybook, fairy-tale ending, he'd be here and going through this with us. But he's not. One thing that my family always says is we trust in the fact that God is sovereign and there's a reason that he's there and there's a reason I'm here. I can rest comfortably in that fact."
However, for this one week, he hopes Jared experiences a loss. On-field competition has been a rarity during the Cooks' lifetimes, but it has happened. The scoreboard during those occasions is also a nice sign for the Rebels.
"In AAU basketball, we played on two separate teams, so we played all the time. Most of the time, the team that I was on won. Since then, though, this will be the first time playing against each other and it's going to be weird suiting up and looking across the sideline and seeing my baby brother over there.
"I treat it as another game. My brother's an opponent this week. When that whistle blows and we step across those lines, bottom line, he's on the opposite team and we're two gladiators fighting in an arena. When that whistle blows and the game is over, he's still my baby brother. I'm going to give him a huge hug and tell him I love him because I do."
Siblings Set to Square Off
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