Khalid Abdullah's football hero, naturally, has always been his big brother, Rahim.
A three-year age difference kept them off the same squad as kids but they could finally team up with the 2006 Calgary Stampeders.
Khalid is working to win a spot at linebacker while Rahim is a sensational defensive end, his job secure entering his sixth CFL season.
"It's always been a dream since I was a kid to play ball with him," Khalid, 27, said yesterday at Stamps training camp, his first time sharing team colours with Rahim.
"I was always too small. I didn't hit my growth spurt until Grade 12. I was only five-three in ninth Grade."
At home in Jacksonville, Fla., mother Jamillah "stretched the truth a little" to help both brothers enter Pop Warner football a year or two before they were eligible, although never with the same club.
"We learned how to play football before we learned how to ride a bike," Khalid said.
"And our mom taught us. In the backyard, every day, working on technique."
Khalid was drafted in the fifth round by the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals in 2003, earning a starting role that first season.
A dislocated ankle in '04 sidelined the young prospect before he was released the following spring.
Rahim Abdullah, 30, helped solve his younger brother's plight by vouching to Stamps brass the kid could still play. The Stamps signed the younger Abdullah to a free-agent deal and early indications are he could win a job in Calgary.
"He had dislocated his ankle and wanted to sit it out and wait around (for another NFL job) and I told him it would be a good idea to get in some film, get in some action in the CFL -- and the best place would be Calgary," Rahim said.
"We have a great defence and Denny Creehan is a great defensive co-ordinator.
"That was always a dream of mine and his to be able to play together and hopefully we'll get that opportunity here.
"It was cool to get him up here, have someone you know who's family here with me. We're very close, even as little kids."
Rahim said his younger brother's substantial skills make him a natural to assume a role within the Stampeders linebacking corps. His 6-ft. 2-in., 227-lb. frame gets from point A to B in no time flat and he can unload on the ball carrier once he arrives.
"He's a speed guy and that's one of the things that impressed them in the NFL -- his speed -- and this defence is great for him," Rahim said.
"He could be the next John Grace."
Khalid worked out in a New Orleans Saints minicamp but eventually took an offer from Stamps GM Jim Barker to try out for a spot here.
The Stamps are in need of another starting linebacker after losing George White, who suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the off-season.
The serious injury could keep White out the first half of the season.
"I told Barker that if (Khalid) doesn't go to New Orleans, he would be a great fit for us," Rahim said.
"We can't have a drop-off. Somebody has to pick up the slack and I thought my brother was more than capable of doing that."
Then Rahim spins his own tongue-in-cheek salespitch for his younger sibling.
"Because he's my brother, they know he's a great athlete," Rahim said with a smile. "I'm a great player, you know, so he's got the same genetics as me.
"People are either going to love us or hate us and he's here on his own merits. He has everything wrapped in one small package."
Although Khalid has only seen his older brother play CFL ball a couple of times, he thinks the Canadian game -- primarily the Stampeders 3-4 defence -- might make for a perfect fit.
"The defence here is based around the linebackers, so it's a great defence to get into -- more of a flowing defence instead of a plug defence like in Cincinnati, which is a d-line type of defence."