FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The Vereen brothers competed hard against each other while growing up in California.
Video games. Stickball. Basketball in the backyard.
And, of course, football — in the living room.
On Sunday, they’ll be on the same field when New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen and Chicago Bears safety Brock Vereen meet in a game that really matters.
“We were never on the field at the same time because of our age difference,” Shane said, “but now we finally get that chance and we’re both really excited.”
Shane is 25 and 3½ years older. He’s an established four-year veteran, a dangerous receiver out of the backfield and a shifty runner. Brock is a rookie, a fourth-round draft pick who got his first NFL start last Sunday in place of injured Chris Conte.
During the draft, Shane was “very nervous” waiting for his brother to be picked. “I just wanted the best for him. I knew he deserved a chance.”
The first day passed without Brock’s name being called. So did the second. Finally, on the third day, the Bears chose the safety who played at nearby Minnesota.
“After draft day, obviously, we looked up each other’s schedules,” Brock said. “Since then, it’s something that we’ve both been anticipating.”
And if he has to level his older brother coming over the middle?
“That’s my job,” Brock said, “just like he would be looking to run me over or break my tackle.”
Athletics have been part of the Vereen family for a long time. Both parents played at UNLV — Henry as a wide receiver who was drafted by Tampa Bay in the ninth round in 1979 and Venita as a tennis player.
“Having parents who are athletes, we’re both naturally going to compete in everything we do,” Brock said.
With Stevan Ridley out for the season after suffering a right knee injury in the sixth game, Shane moved up to the top running back spot in the Patriots’ last game. He led them with 43 yards rushing, 71 yards receiving and two touchdown catches in a 27-25 win over the New York Jets.
“He’s done such a great job for us over the time that he’s been here,” quarterback Tom Brady said. “I think ‘dependability’ really sums it up, and he’s really an explosive player for us.”
And what about Brock?
“He’s certainly got good genes,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “Brock is a highly intelligent guy, great work ethic. We continue to develop him, too, as he gets to play a little bit more. He’s been a significant factor in some of our games. Even though he didn’t start, he came in and had to play due to injury and did an excellent job.”
The brothers talk nearly every day, Shane said. They give each other advice.
“I had some success in Pop Warner and even in high school and college,” Shane said. “He was always the younger brother and people always put a lot of pressure on him to do exactly the same thing I did, but he’s not me.
“He’s a different person and the opportunities that he was given he took full advantage of and that’s why he is where he is today.”
Because Shane was busy playing college football at California, he couldn’t watch all of Brock’s high school games. But he’s seen recordings.
On Sunday, he won’t have to wait for the replay.
“It’s definitely going to be a good time for me and my family,” Shane said, “but, at the same time, you’ve got to get down to the basics. It would mean more, obviously, if we came out on top and just played well as a team.”
When they played one-on-one, he said, he usually came out on top.
“If it was under my control, then I usually won,” Shane said with a smile. “I’m not going to say he never beat me. He definitely beat me, but I definitely didn’t let him. He would go get my dad and it would be 2-on-1 in basketball, but, other than that, I was good.”
On Sunday, it will be 11-on-11 with their parents watching from the stands.
“Thankfully, it’s an away game,” Brock said, “so I don’t have to buy the tickets.”
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