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Family Affair: Clemons Brothers Beat Odds

It doesn't happen often, especially in today's NFL. Glenn and Lyle Blackwood did it as members of the Miami Dolphins' Killer Bees defense in the 1980s. Matt and Dan Turk did it for three years in the late 1990s as members of the Redskins' special teams.

The rare occurrence? Two brothers playing together on an NFL team.

Ironically, the Redskins have their second such case in the last decade. This time around, the combination consists of linebacker Chris Clemons and defensive end Nic Clemons.

There are only 53 spots on an NFL roster. Compare that to the huge numbers of young men around the United States and even around the world who strive to play the game professionally. Simply put, the odds of two brothers playing together in the NFL are huge.

Their story begins in Griffin, Ga., where Nic and his young brother by a year Chris were raised by their mother Mattie.

"We quickly learned we had to be our own men," Chris said. "We had to keep each other level-headed."

At Griffin High School, Chris joined the football team. He was a three-year starter and capped off his career with a Region AAAA MVP honor, bestowed on him by the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association. Chris's work was impressive enough to be wooed by the local favorites, the University of Georgia Bulldogs.

Nic's high school path was a little different. He didn't play one down of high school football. Instead, he played basketball at Griffin. Later, his high school basketball coach helped him get to Georgia Military College, where he took up football.

Nic caught on quickly and was named to the National Junior College All-America Team in 1999. That allowed him to join Chris in Athens, Ga., with the Bulldogs.

In a cruel twist of fate, Nic broke his toe in the first game of his senior season of 2002. He went undrafted in 2003, but signed with the Redskins as a free agent, hoping to stick. He spent the 2003-04 seasons on the practice squad.

Chris left Georgia a year early and also signed with the Redskins as an undrafted rookie free agent. He spent 2003 on the injured reserve list with a knee injury and was waived prior to the 2004 season.

The Browns signed Chris to their practice squad. After injuries to linebackers Mike Barrow and LaVar Arrington, the Redskins re-signed Chris in November 2004. The decision paid dividends as he logged three sacks in the final six games.

Last season, in Week 7, the Clemons brothers were on the field together for the first time in an NFL game. It was against the San Francisco 49ers and in attendance was their mother.

Said Chris after the game: "It was a blessing for our mom to be here the first time that we touched the field together."

Nic saw spot action last season, spelling the starters on the defensive line. Chris has made a solid impact as a reserve linebacker and, despite coming off a knee injury, could be in line for more playing time in 2006. Chris was a restricted free agent this offseason but has been tendered a contract by the Redskins.

Now that they have both reached the highest level of the spot and have done so on the same team, neither brother is taking things for granted.

"It was a struggle coming through high school and college," Nic said. "For us to come through Georgia together and get to the Redskins has been great. You don't have too many opportunities to make it in the NFL. And then, to make it with your brother is incredible."

Added Chris: "He's my best friend in the world. Where we grew up , we didn't have time to think about being professionals. Through the Lord, anything is possible. It's a blessing for my brother and me to be playing together."

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