CLEMSON - While it is unlikely they will be on the field at the same time after kickoff, Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker and Wake Forest tight end Andrew Parker are eager for a few moments together during pregame in Death Valley.
Their last names are coincidental, but Kyle and Andrew are brothers of a sort. They first bonded as 10-year-olds on a Jacksonville, Fla., baseball team. Andrew was a pitcher. Kyle was the team's best hitter.
Their parents also became friends and will travel to the game together from Augusta, Ga., where Kyle's parents now live.
"We've been really good friends for a long time, but I really want to beat him," Kyle said.
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Baseball was the root of their relationship until high school. Andrew was the quarterback at Bartram Trail, but accepted a change of positions after his friend arrived for their sophomore year. At 6-foot-5, Andrew is four inches taller, but there was no denying Kyle has the bigger arm.
Kyle was one of those kids blessed with natural skills, Andrew said.
"He's always been a great baseball player since Little League," Andrew said, "Always been a natural athlete, always good at everything he played."
Together, the Parkers helped the Bartram Trail football team to a couple of Class 5A playoff appearances. As seniors, Kyle passed and ran for more than 3,500 yards and Andrew caught 26 passes for nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns.
But the roots of the relationship go much deeper than the games they played.
When Kyle's mother, Cathy Parker, put together a plan a couple years ago to construct a high school football field in Alaska near the Arctic Ocean, Andrew's parents were among those that joined the Parker family and helped with the heavy lifting.
Project Alaska Turf, which raised nearly $700,000, is affiliated with Athletes to Champions, a non-profit organization that uses sports as a means for providing structure and guidance for at-risk youngsters.
Among its affiliated programs is Power Cross, which sponsors baseball, football and basketball camps. During the summer, Kyle and Andrew served as mentors at a Power Cross football camp in Statesville, N.C. Before college, they worked at a baseball camp in Jacksonville.
Kyle said they hang out with the kids, "teaching them football and being a good role model."
After their responsibilities to Clemson and Wake Forest split them last summer, correspondence became spotty, but both know they can depend on the other for support.
Kyle said he planned to call Andrew this week. Andrew said he would text-message Kyle, maybe ask for a couple of Clemson plays "between friends."
"When playing against a close friend like that, you always want to come out and give your best," Andrew said, "show him how much you've improved."
Regardless of today's result, Kyle said their relationship has achieved a comfort zone after nearly 10 years.
"We're really good buddies," he said. "I can call him and talk about anything."