Chris Thomas has quite the dilemma on his hands.
The 21-year-old Air Force cadet has been cheering on his Falcons football team for four seasons now, but this weekend is going to be different.
On Saturday, Air Force will host in-state rival Colorado State, and Thomas will stand among the more than 4,000 cadets at Falcon Stadium and watch as his younger brother, Pete, attempts to lead the Rams to victory at quarterback. For the first time since joining the Academy in 2007, Chris says heâ€™ll be cheering for the visiting team.
â€œIâ€™ve been cheering for Air Force for three years, never did I think Iâ€™d have to (root) for CSU,â€ said Chris Thomas, who wrestled at Air Force for two years. â€œBut then again, he is my younger brother. Iâ€™ll always support him no matter what.â€
The elder Thomas described his and Peteâ€™s adolescent relationship as a competitive one, noting that Pete was big and strong enough to compete with his friends â€“ who were all three years older.
â€œMy parents tried to promote a relationship where we supported each other, but also there was that competitive aspect which made us each better as people and as athletes,â€ said Chris, who is Peteâ€™s only sibling. â€œ(Pete) was always on the bigger side, heâ€™d always go out and play with my friends who were older. That really helped him out a lot throughout his athletic career.
Chris remembers seeing Pete play during his junior season at Valhalla High School for the San Diego section championship at Qualcomm Stadium.
It was then that Chris realized just how good his younger brother was going to be.
â€œHis junior year, playing for the San Diego section title, Pete went out and threw for over 300 yards,â€ Chris said. â€œHe went out there in front of probably 10,000 fans and had one of his best games ever. To see his composure in that game was really humbling as an older brother.â€
Pete â€“ whose 1,197 passing yards ranks him among the college footballâ€™s top 25 quarterbacks five weeks into the 2010 season â€“ says that his older brother has always been his biggest fan.
â€œChris is one of my biggest supporters, if not my biggest,â€ said Pete, after CSUâ€™s practice Tuesday evening. â€œWe used to trash talk when we were younger, thatâ€™s kind of subsided now. Heâ€™s more on Colorado Stateâ€™s side now.â€
Pete joked that he hopes his older brother will be wearing a No. 4 CSU jersey in the Air Force section come Saturday. Chris quickly dismissed any such notion:
â€œThose chances are zero,â€ he laughed. â€œI told my dad, Dan, to be a proud parent and represent the number four jersey.â€
Despite the slow start in 2010 for the Rams, Chris expects CSU and his young brother to be just fine.
â€œIâ€™m really glad that Pete ended up at Colorado State,â€ Chris said. â€œTheyâ€™re on the up and coming, theyâ€™ll be a contender in the next few years.â€
If Pete has any hope of defeating the Falcons in front of his brother, the Rams will need to move the ball on offense, which they failed to do consistently a week ago in a 27-0 loss to TCU.
Pete is aware of just how difficult a task it will be to move the ball against the Falcons, who have allowed opponents to score just 16.4 points per game while running an untraditional 3-4 scheme.
â€œTheyâ€™re real fundamentally sound, they donâ€™t miss assignments,â€ he said. â€œThis may be one of the toughest defenses we play all year. Itâ€™s a little bit different with the 3-4, but once you get it down, itâ€™s easy.â€
From afar, Falcon Stadiumâ€™s student section will look homogeneous on Saturday, but among the thousands of cheering cadets will be a proud brother choosing family over school allegiance.
Assistant Sports Editor Joel Hafnor can be reached at email@example.com.