Tonight's game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the New York Jets is more than a showdown between traditional AFC strugglers who suddenly have the playoffs within reach, more even than two former USC stars going toe to toe.
It's a quarterback versus his ball boy.
That's right, Jets rookie Mark Sanchez was a ball boy at Santa Margarita High in Mission Viejo when Palmer was the starting quarterback. The two wound up playing for the Trojans, and both were first-round picks: Palmer No. 1 overall in 2003, and Sanchez fifth in April.
When he was preparing for the draft last winter, Sanchez frequently mentioned he modeled his approach after that of Palmer. And the rookie didn't stray from that this week when speaking to Cincinnati reporters in advance of this win-and-we're-in game for the Jets.
"Anything I could possibly have a question about, he's always open to talk about," Sanchez said. "He always has little bits of wisdom for me, things he's seen as a pro and college player, that could possibly help me."