Sunday, April 22, 2018
Colleges

Florida vs. Louisville Sugar Bowl divides Joyer family loyalties

NEW ORLEANS

A few days before the college football bowl announcements were made, Kamran Joyer contacted his younger brother Hunter to tell him there was a chance that Kamran's Louisville Cardinals might be selected to play Hunter's Florida Gators in a bowl.

Yeah, right, Hunter thought. After all, the projections he had been seeing had Florida playing Oklahoma. "I really kind of just shot that down, didn't really give it a shot," Hunter Joyer said.

Turns out, the older Joyer was right.

When No. 3 Florida and No. 21 Louisville meet in Wednesday's Sugar Bowl, the little boys who grew up participating in "fiercely competitive" backyard football games, then spent two years as teammates at Wesley Chapel High, will for the first time become adversaries on the field. Hunter Joyer is a sophomore starting fullback for the Gators, while Kamran is a redshirt junior offensive lineman.

"I think it's crazy," Hunter said. "It's going to be. I don't even really know how to explain it. I've never really experienced anything like this but it seems like one of those special moments, kind of like Tiki and Ronde Barber, Eli and Peyton Manning. I kind of feel like them, going through the same thing they've gone through. It's pretty special. I'm just hoping we come out with the win so I can brag about that."

The two have been each other's biggest supporters for as long as they can remember. On an off week this year, Kamran, 22, traveled to Gainesville to watch Hunter, the middle of three boys, play. Hunter, 19, tries to catch any Louisville game on TV that doesn't conflict with the Gators' schedule, saying, "I'm so happy to see him get the chance to do what he loves."

But deep down, they are typical brothers. Case in point — after the bowl selections were announced, Hunter did what any little brother would do: He pulled out his best trash talk.

"He called me and told me I was Gator bait," Kamran said. "He said he was looking forward to playing. I told him the same thing, then I told him to watch out. As soon as he got word of the game, he started talking crap."

All in fun, of course. Kamran said his teammates have asked what it feels like to be playing against his brother, and trying to gauge his excitement. Kamran and Hunter said they find it hard to explain the emotions.

"It's really special," Kamran said. "I'll definitely talk about it for a long time. I'll even tell Hunter's children about it one day. I might even change the story and tell them that we won if we lose, just to make it sound better. It's going to be crazy. I don't know what to expect."

The brothers and their family understand the unique opportunity the game presents and plan to make it special. About 20 family members are expected to travel to New Orleans. A family friend has designed shirts representing both Louisville and Florida for the family to wear as they battle torn loyalties. It is, the Joyers said, once in a lifetime.

"The planets just lined up in just the right arrangement," said Kirsten Joyer, Hunter and Kamran's mom, who admits she was both "elated and horrified" when she heard Florida and Louisville would play. "Everything lined up exactly the way it was supposed to. This was intended to happen. It was just serendipity. It was meant to happen.

"We're going to be in New Orleans with the whole family, and this will be the first time that we've been together as a family in a while. It's going to be a great experience."

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