Utah Utes football: Offensive and defensive linemen brothers will go head-to-head on field
There's more than a football game scheduled for Saturday night at Spartan Stadium. The contest between 17th-ranked Utah and San Jose State will feature a head-to-head battle between brothers — Utah defensive tackle Kenape Eliapo and San Jose State offensive right guard Ailao Eliapo.
"It's going to be a big family reunion over there," said Kenape, who expects more than 200 friends and family to watch the siblings go at it.
"It's just a real blessing," Ailao said. "We're just real blessed to have this opportunity."
Whoever scheduled the game, he added, has made the Eliapo family quite happy. The brothers grew up in nearby South San Francisco, a convenient journey for those in the family circle.
"We couldn't believe it because everything is always subject to change," Ailao said. "So when everything got set in stone, that's when preparations started."
Kenape considers it amazing that everything came together.
"I never thought this day would come. Now this week is here. It came up fast on us," he said. "I'm just excited and I'm ready to play against my little brother."
The feeling is mutual.
"I'm very excited," Ailao said. "When it comes to Saturday, I don't know what to expect — expect the unexpected. It's going to be a great matchup."
Despite attending different colleges, the brothers have remained close. Not surprising, recent conversations have centered around the game.
"We talk about it a lot," Kenape said. "Almost every day."
Besides a passion for football, the Eliapos share a competitive bond. They like to compete against one another and do so whenever visiting home together.
Big brother even admits to picking on his younger sibling while growing up.
Kenape, however, said Saturday's game is the one matchup that counts.
When the pair squared off in a high school wrestling match, the brothers laughed the whole time.
"I just happened to reach under and pin him," Kenape said. "That was the last time we really competed against each other."
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham acknowledges that the brothers' matchup adds an intriguing dynamic to the game.
"It's not the first time they've gone head-to-head," he said. "But that's a little bit of an interesting part of the deal."
The brothers share a mutual respect for one another.
"I respect him as a player," said Kenape, who has already studied film to analyze Ailao's strengths and weaknesses.
The Utes, however, will have an advantage when it comes to family ties. They also have lineman Jeremiah Tofaeono, a cousin, on their roster.
"It's amazing," Kenape said. "It's going to be three brothers."
Tale of the tape
Ailao, San Jose State offensive lineman, 6-3, 320, Junior
Kenape, Utah defensive lineman, 6-0, 300, Senior
Utes on the air
No. 17 Utah (1-0) at San Jose State (0-1)
Saturday, 8:30 p.m. (MT)
Radio: 700 AM
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