Brandon Ghee (AP photo)
Brandon Ghee, the Bengals rookie who has all the physical specifications of a top NFL cornerback, also comes with a clone.
His older brother, Patrick, a 26-year-old software engineer in Tampa, Fla., has already seen the codes of this program. Before deciding to put his master's degree in computer science engineering to work a year and a half ago, Patrick played in preseason games with Seattle and Washington in 2007 and 2008, sandwiched around a stint on the Carolina practice squad as a college free agent.
But like Brandon, 23, he played in the Wake Forest secondary and, like Brandon, chose the Deacons for the three reasons they always discussed: Atmosphere. Academics. Athletics. So, as always, he is on the phone with Brandon every other day talking about the OTAs and what to expect in training camp.
"My best friend," Brandon says. "We're a military family and we always moved. We always had new friends, but we always had each other."
"All we pretty much had," Patrick says, "is each other and sports. I was the quarterback and he was usually the running back. When we picked teams, we always picked each other. Our parents always supported us and went to all our practices and games."
They are the only children of Wayne and Carol Ghee, their parents that now live just outside Fort Bragg, N.C. in Fayetteville where Wayne, a former warrant officer in the Army, now works for the government. Brandon figures between all the stops he lived about nine years on military bases in Germany. The place where he's lived the longest is college, and he had that figured out before Patrick.
While Patrick tried to decide among Wake, Duke and Stanford, his ninth-grade brother told him, "I don't know where you're going, Patrick, but I'm going to Wake."
"That's when I started to look at it again and I thought he was right," Patrick says.
Brandon knew because that freshman year in high school he also made those three recruiting trips with his brother, as well as the one to Vanderbilt.
"It was just big enough with the atmosphere. Not too big with an up-and-coming team and a great coach," Brandon says. "And the academics are great."
While Patrick got both degrees from Wake in four years, Brandon settled for majors in communications and theology.
"I took a couple of theology classes and really liked it," he says. "So I stayed with it."
These guys are not exactly Dumb and Dumber. After gliding through one of the more respected secondary institutions in the nation, they found the NFL turns out to offer course loads just as heavy and Patrick is helping. Brandon gets on the horn and can tell him, "Today in the skelly drill I had a tip," or "I was in Cover 3 when I had to make a break."
"And he knows what I'm talking about," Brandon says. "He tells me it's a business and to listen to the coaches and keep focused."
Patrick says the majority of his brother's questions revolve around trying to show the coaches the amount of work and preparation he's putting in. Although Patrick never played a regular-season game in the league, he knows all about practices in the spring and training camp.
"There is hustle and there is breaking on the ball; there's a difference," Patrick says. "You can pick up a ball and run as fast as you can 50 yards down the field and that's hustle. But what really means something is if you can break on the ball as you read the receiver and quarterback.
"I told him that he's got to be patient. Let the game come to him. Don't get frustrated at training camp. It will come. He's going to be doing the same things he was doing in minicamp."
Who is smarter? Who is older? Who is better? These guys almost seem like identical twins. But since Patrick didn't get drafted in 2007 and Brandon went in the third round this year, Patrick says, "I have to give it to my brother" when it comes to football.
The 6-1, 211-pound Patrick played safety and actually had more interceptions in college with four than the 6-0, 190-pound Brandon with one. (Indeed, that stat may be the biggest reason of all Brandon didn't go in the second round like he thought.)
Patrick can tell Brandon, "It comes down to luck and opportunity." While Patrick's draft day experience was limited to flipping through the draft magazines waiting for a call, he was with Brandon while his brother took in the full experience, complete with green room conversations with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Be careful what you wish for. Brandon was the last green-room player taken as the Friday Night TV lights were extinguished.
"It was only bad for the last hour," he says. "I'm glad I did it. I got to see the Empire State Building and meet a lot of Hall of Famers. At first there was the frusration. But I forgot all that. I was just so relieved I got drafted and I could start realizing my dream."
But Patrick can talk to him about the experiences that count.
Patrick signed with Seattle after the draft, but got buried in the numbers game when he missed time because of a hamstring injury and got whacked in the last cut. After some time on the street, the Panthers practice squad didn't translate into a roster spot and he had to wait some more before going into Washington's '08 camp. He played in the preseason games but again got the word at the last cut.
"I was going to keep with it and then I met the guy who hired me here in Tampa," Patrick says. "He told me just to come in as an intern for three months and if another team called, they called. But I loved it. I love what I'm doing. I really like the job. I heard someone was interested, but I told my agent not to bother. Time to move on."
Luck and opportunity. Brandon thinks his overseas experience is going to help his NFL transition.
"I loved Germany. I want to go back on vacation some time," Brandon says. "I know Cincinnati has a German background. I like it with the food, like bratwurst. I'm looking at apartments and condos and I've been up to Mount Adams and that reminds me a lot of Germany."
"I liked moving around a lot," says Brandon, who estimated when he got drafted that this would be the 15th move of his life. "You had to adapt and meet different people and see a lot of different situations."
Granted, he's never seen one like this. Not with these receivers or quarterbacks. Especially quarterbacks.
"The receivers run sharper routes. The receivers are good. They're all good athletes," Brandon says. "The biggest thing is the quarterbacks. There are a lot of athletes in college at receiver, but the quarterbacks here ... I mean, Carson Palmer throws it on the numbers every time. You've got to be in great position with great technique."
He's got the great measurables, but defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is going to demand Ghee marry those with the tackles.
"If you want to know if I hit," Brandon says, "look at YouTube."
Here is Patrick's scouting report on his brother:
"Incredible straight line speed. Very fast. If he had a race in the NFL, he'd be in the top five with ease. And he's got good hands. I know that's a big criticism of him. He had only one interception in college. But you can do everything right and they don't throw it your way. That happened to him in a lot of games. If you do what you're supposed to do, they don't throw you the ball. He's a very natural cornerback. With his footwork, especially on the deep ball because of his speed and just being a natural, he looks like the receiver."
But the Brother Ghee knows there are some things that a computer can't spit back.
"If he was my older brother, he'd be my role model," Patrick Ghee says.