When it comes to sibling rivalry, Ray and Chris Jackson are quick to settle things.
Ray is a starting cornerback for Washington State's football team and Chris is the Cougars' leading receiver. Both graduated from Mater Dei in 1993, and they have spent much of their senior seasons trying to outdo one another.
The daily competition has paid off for the brothers and for Washington State, which will make its first Rose Bowl appearance in 67 years when it plays Michigan today.
"I go against him every day now that he's moved to corner," Chris Jackson said. "It's like being with your best friend out there, but when it's time to get serious, we get serious."
And the winner usually is . . . ?
"At first when I moved out there I was a little shaky and he kind of used me a few times," Ray Jackson said. "But now I'm getting the hang of it and I can tell what his routes are and stuff, so we come out about even."
Considering Ray's head start in football, it's surprising Chris ever has an edge.
Ray played basketball exclusively until his junior year at Mater Dei, when he decided to go out for football. By the time he finished his senior season, he was an All-Southern Section selection, a Times Orange County first-team pick and had earned a scholarship to Washington State.
Ray was one of only three freshmen to play for the Cougars, then saw action as a backup free safety in every game his sophomore and junior seasons. This year, he settled into a starting role at free safety, then moved to left cornerback the final three games.
Chris, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer to football. He never played at Mater Dei, where he was a standout basketball player and track athlete, earning three letters in each sport. His basketball career continued at UC Riverside, where he played in 29 games his freshman year, averaging 3.2 points.
The next year, Chris enrolled at Orange Coast, planning to move up to a Division I program after one year. However, a problem in the transfer of quarter units from Riverside to semester units at Orange Coast put his basketball season in jeopardy because he thought he hadn't accrued enough to units be considered a sophomore.
This turn of events changed the direction of Chris Jackson's life.
"A friend told me I could go out there and play football," Chris said. "I'd come to find out I still had my freshman year of eligibility for football, so I went out just kind of joking around to see how it would go."
Ray still remembers hearing the news.
"My mom called me and said, 'Chris has a surprise to tell you,' " Ray said. "So he gets on the phone and tells me he's playing football. I thought he was pulling my leg or something. I guess the basketball season wasn't going too well."
As soon as Chris ran his first route, Orange Coast Coach Bill Workman could see his talent and field vision would be assets.
"The transition from basketball to football is probably easier than other sports," Workman said. "It's easier to understand pass patterns and how to use the space on the field, like on a fast break."
Chris' numbers for the Pirates were stellar. He finished with 37 receptions for 782 yards--21.1 yards per catch--and nine touchdowns, and was named the team's most valuable receiver.
Suddenly football appeared to be his ticket to a Division I school, and Washington State was the natural choice.
Chris had been to Pullman several times to watch his brother play. He had befriended Ray's friends and seemed to fit in with the campus lifestyle. Then there was that young quarterback from Montana, Ryan Leaf, who was blossoming into something special.
"Ryan was coming in and developing as a good quarterback," Ray said. "Chris knew if he came here, he'd get the ball thrown to him."
Chris sat out his sophomore season as a transfer. The next season he played in all 11 games and caught 10 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
"It worked out good sitting out my sophomore year," Chris said. "It was a frustrating year for me, but I think it paid off. It made me work harder."
The pinnacle for the brothers, so far, came during the 41-35 victory over Washington on Nov. 22, which assured the Cougars (10-1) their Rose Bowl trip.
During one sequence, Ray intercepted a pass and Chris capped the ensuing drive with one of his two touchdown receptions.
"We went home and we were watching Sportscenter," Ray said. "And our highlights were the only two highlights that they showed for Washington State."
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
* Teams: Washington State vs. Michigan
* When: 2 p.m. today
* Where: Pasadena
* Records: Washington State 10-1; Michigan 11-0
* TV: ABC
* Orange County connections: Washington State--Chris Jackson (Mater Dei/Orange Coast), Sr., WR; Ray Jackson (Mater Dei), Sr., DB; Love Jefferson (Bolsa Grande), Jr., TE; Mickey Long (Corona del Mar/Orange Coast), Jr., OL; Billy Newman (Santa Margarita), Fr., RB. Michigan--none.