LOS ANGELES — At first, Darnay Holmes was surprised. What was his brother doing at the Rose Bowl? Then UCLA's freshman cornerback was sorry.
His older brother Darick Holmes Jr. traveled from Arizona, where he is a redshirt sophomore receiver for the Wildcats, to watch Darnay play against Colorado two weeks ago. For the trip, Darick got to see eight defensive plays before his brother was ejected for targeting.
"I was like, 'Oh, my bad, bro," Darnay remembers with a laugh. "You wasted a two-way flight."
It turned into a classic older-brother teachable moment. Darnay, a freshman fireball, wanted to "take people's heads off," Darick said. Keep your eyes up, Darick advised, then that could be a clean play. Just add it to the long list of advice Darick has passed to his younger brother.
The Holmes brothers will be in the same place Saturday night as they share the field at Arizona Stadium for the first time as Division I football players. It's the first of three possible collegiate matchups between the brothers and the culmination of more than a dozen years of hard work together.
Darick Holmes Sr., a former NFL running back, started training his sons on the football field when Darick was seven and Darnay was five. They ran through footwork ladders and pulled small sleds attached to their tiny bodies.
Their three-man operation grew into Proway Training, Darick Sr.'s company which has churned out dozens of other college football players, including Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate. Getting to watch his sons Saturday reminds Darick Sr. of their modest beginnings together.
Khalil Tate Ballplayer— Arizona Football (@ArizonaFBall) October 10, 2017
See him and the Cats Saturday night at Arizona Stadium. 6 p.m.
"It's a dream come true," their father said.
For the game, Darick Sr. made shirts with UCLA and Arizona helmets on the front, printed above the words "a family affair." The script UCLA logo is on one sleeve and the Arizona block 'A' is on the other. On the back, it reads "Holmes" in red over Darick Jr.'s No. 24 and "Boyz" in blue over Darnay's No. 1.
Darick Sr. said he's more nervous about the game than his sons. He's unsure how to confront the very thing he chased for years. He wishes there were still tie games.
The brothers are not interested in any ties.
"I want to win," Darick Jr. said. "I want him to do the best he can do. I'm hopeful for the best for him, but I want our team to come out with a win."
They've never played against each other on the football field, but always competed in everything from basketball to video games. Darick Jr. always won. Darnay ran inside to his parents crying.
Darnay scored his first victory when he entered middle school. He started growing at that time, eventually filling out at 5-10, 195 pounds. Darick Jr. stalled at 5-5, 179 pounds.
Although his growth petered out, Darick Jr.'s career continued to climb. He played varsity football as a freshman at Oaks Christian and later transferred to Newbury Park with Darnay, where they advanced to the CIF Southern Section Northern Division final when Darick Jr. was a senior.
Now at Arizona, he still has to "work himself out of the doghouse" after a slow start to his college career, Darick Sr. said. The younger Darick redshirted as a freshman and played in three games off the bench last year. His father is expecting a breakout year next season.
"People were saying he's never going to go to college, he's too short, he's all that, but once he gets on that field, you don't see his height, it's just straight heart," Darnay said. "So he's the one that taught me to play with heart and how to play to the level that you're projected to play at."
Darnay is the baby, the youngest of three kids behind his brother and their older sister Derica. He was the "perfect child," Darick Jr. said. He got away with using his phone late at night or playing video games when he wasn't supposed to.
The subject of attention from his father and his older brother, Darnay has blossomed into the most impressive of the Holmes clan.
He has 16 tackles, one 30-yard pick-six and three passes defended in his first five games in college. He was an early enrollee at UCLA, keeps his grades in line and is hoping to graduate in three years.
"He's a Kobe Bryant, he's a Michael Jordan, he's one of those guys who's going to put in the work without everybody there," Darick Sr. said. "He really gets it. He wants to be the best."
Darick Jr. also wants his brother to be the best. He's Darnay's biggest fan and biggest critic. It's his responsibility as an older brother to nurture the talent he saw long ago when Darnay jumped an out route during a pee wee playoff game for a game-changing interception. He was eight, playing with kids two years his senior.
It took only six quarters of college football for Darnay to jump another route and come up with his first collegiate interception.
"I knew he always had it in him," Darick Jr. said. "I'm proud of him."
This article is written by Thuc Nhi Nguyen from Los Angeles Daily News and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.