Jamaal Charles: High school reunion
Last year Manhattan, Kan., saw the reunion of two Port Arthur products. The star running backs, Jamaal Charles and James Johnson, were teammates in the backfield for Memorial High School and last year marked the first time the two friends saw each other as opponents.
Johnson, a senior at KSU, is two years ahead of Charles. The two grew up together and have remained good friends ever since.
"I have a good relationship with James," Charles said. "He grew up with my cousin, so we have always been around one another. He was older than me, so when I got to high school he was a few years ahead of me. I really looked up to him. I really liked watching him play and tried to do some of the things he was doing. Some of the things I learned from James are the things that I'm doing now."
Johnson, a junior college transfer from Blinn College, has been having his own success at Kansas State. In his first year with KSU, he was the team's second-leading rusher and gave the Wildcats their first 100-yard rusher in consecutive games since 2005. This season, Johnson is averaging 6.3 yards a carry and is the team's leading rusher.
Charles' time with Johnson back home created many lasting memories and the two keep in touch as much as their busy schedules will allow.
"We probably talk about once a week and if we're busy maybe every two weeks," Charles said. "We like to see how each of us is doing and we've talked a lot about how we're going to get to play against one another again."
With the game being in Austin this year it will give an opportunity for Johnson's family to see him play.
"He's really excited because the game is in Texas this year, and a lot of his family from back home are going to get to come watch him play," Charles mentioned.
Even though last year's game did not have the outcome that Charles desired, there were no ill feelings towards one another.
"It was fun seeing him at the game last year," Charles remembered. "He knew I wanted to win and I knew that he wanted to win, but he didn't talk trash after they won. I just congratulated him because they played a great game. He's a great running back, and you can see that he has a different running style than me. He's competitive so I told everyone on my team that y'all have to stop him, because we wouldn't want him changing the game. If he gets going, he can do that."
Fortunately for Texas fans, Charles had someone to look up to while in high school and someone that he still admires.
"He's one of the best people that I know," Charles said. "I wish we could play on the same team again. We got along with one another well and I wanted to be like him."
The two may not be on the same sideline this coming Saturday, but they will definitely have a chance to watch one another in action again and even if they are opponents for a few hours, they're sure to be friends again when they meet at midfield after the game.