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Cousins Play in Holiday Bowl

December 30, 1998

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Without really knowing each other, Arizona running back Trung Canidate and Nebraska receiver Kenny Cheatham faced off on the football fields of Phoenix much of their young lives.

One day in high school, they learned they were related.

Canidate and Cheatham, whose fathers are cousins, will be on opposite sidelines tonight when No. 5 Arizona (11-1) meets No. 14 Nebraska (9-3) in the Holiday Bowl.

Canidate, a junior, is Arizona’s big-play threat and the top rusher in the Pac-10. He averaged a national-best 7.3 yards per carry and is coming off a school-record 288-yard effort against Arizona State.

Cheatham, a senior, caught a 45-yard touchdown pass one-handed in a loss at Kansas State. He’s also a return specialist, averaging just under 10 yards per punt return.

Considering their exceptional talents, it’s no surprise Canidate and Cheatham are cousins. But both recalled being surprised to learn it.

``We grew up in different parts of town,″ Cheatham said. ``I’m from south Phoenix. He’s from the west side. We played against each other and ran track against each other, but we didn’t really grow up together.″

Said Canidate: ``It’s a big city and my family is huge. I remember Kenny being a great athlete growing up, and I remember being amazed when my brother said he was our cousin.″

Even after Canidate and Cheatham learned they were related, they rarely saw each other except at athletic events. By both accounts, it was Cheatham who often had the upper hand.

``I remember we were playing South Mountain and Kenny caught a pass in my area,″ said Canidate, who played defensive back at Phoenix Central. ``I ran with all I could to keep up with him, and I tracked him down.″

Cheatham said their best showdown came in track, where they once faced off in the 100 meters.

``Between us, I was always the No. 1 sprinter back in high school,″ Cheatham said with a laugh.

Canidate remembers it this way: ``We ran once, and we both won. I can say that because I won the first 60, but I slipped on a hole on the track, and he went on to win the race.″

Athletics opened doors for both.

Cheatham chose Nebraska over Arizona State and UCLA, but also considered track scholarships from UCLA, Auburn, LSU, Tennessee, Miami and Florida State. He also was contacted about playing basketball by Arizona, Arizona State, Georgetown, Kansas, Ohio State, Oregon State and UCLA.

Canidate, who made the honor roll every year in high school, lettered four years in track and two years in basketball at Central. He’s a two-sport athlete at Arizona, running sprints in the spring.

``I was always good in track,″ Canidate said. ``I was a late blossomer in basketball, and by then I already liked playing football.″

Both played against each other in football as far back as Pop Warner, where Nebraska linebacker Eric Johnson also saw action before moving on to Alhambra High School in Phoenix.

This week has given the cousins a chance to get reacquainted.

``We’re close, but not like a bond where I grew up with some other cousins that I saw more often,″ Cheatham said. ``We know each other, we respect each other and we like each other.″

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