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Air Force vs. Notre Dame will pit Rochell brothers on opposite sides of the ball

October 24, 2013 Updated: October 24, 2013 at 9:38 pm
photo - Air Force tackle Matt Rochell
Air Force tackle Matt Rochell 

Matt Rochell is excited to put his hand on the ground Saturday, look up and see in front of him the uniform he's seen since he first started watching football.

But on a few plays, he'll see a sight he's known even longer - the face of his brother, Isaac, staring right back at him.

Brothers have faced off in college football games before, but this one could be especially up close and personal as Matt, a sophomore, plays left tackle for Air Force and Isaac is a reserve defensive lineman who has played six or seven snaps a game for Notre Dame.

When Isaac is on the field, there's a 50/50 chance he'll be lined up directly against his brother.

"I don't know how they'll even keep a straight face," said their mother, Gina Rochell, who will be among a large group of family at Falcon Stadium to watch the matchup.

The brothers last played on the same field when Matt was a senior and Isaac was a sophomore at Eagles Landing Christian Academy in McDonough, Ga. It was at that time that Matt - now 6 feet 3 inches tall, 260 pounds - was deciding on the Air Force Academy, which he joined via the prep school, and Isaac - now 6-3, 280 - emerged as a top-rated national recruit who was sought by programs like Alabama and Florida before deciding on the Fighting Irish.

"I was more in the low-level recruiting bracket," Matt said. "He was recruited by everyone. We were always kind of more of an SEC family and there wasn't an affinity for Notre Dame in our family. But he went up there and fell in love with it."

Isaac has seen limited action behind star lineman Stephon Tuitt, but he's earning his way onto the field as a true freshman.

"I saw him on film today," Matt said after Air Force's practice Monday. "That was weird."

Gina Rochell diplomatically said she'll remain neutral during the game. She said she's just excited to see both of her sons in the same place, but beyond that she doesn't think she'll even give a moment's thought to the outcome.

As a teacher, however, she expects to be overcome by the entire scenario.

"You see your two kids out there and one's playing for Notre Dame and one's playing for the Air Force Academy," said Gina, who teaches fifth grade. "It doesn't get any better than that, academically, as far as I'm concerned."

The brothers are close and talk often. Matt has enjoyed having Isaac at a program also known for its rigid academic standards if for no other reason than to compare notes on their college experiences.

"The only big difference I see is that they get up at like 9 and we get up at 6," Matt said. "He's still busy, but he's not getting up at 6. The big thing is sleep that I see; and food, actually. They eat a lot more food."

All that other stuff will slip away at 3 p.m. Saturday, however, as the teams and brothers take the field against each other.

"We've got to stay focused," Matt said. "But I am excited to play Notre Dame, let alone that my brother might play."

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