BOULDER - When freshman linebacker Doug Rippy showed up to a family barbeque in Ohio a little over a year ago, he was shocked to see who was there: his good friend, freshman running back Rodney Stewart.
It was at that family reunion that Rippy and Stewart, friends for over five years, found out they were second cousins. Rippy’s mother is Stewart’s first cousin.
“I didn’t believe it at first,” Rippy said.
Both Rippy and Stewart have very large families (Rippy’s paternal grandparents have over 90 grandchildren), so it’s understandable how two old neighborhood friends never knew they had any type of relation other than a friendship until just before leaving for college.
CU running backs coach Darian Hagan was recruiting Rippy, and he told Hagan that he had a cousin who was a very good running back. Shortly after that, Stewart was invited to CU for a visit and soon the longtime friends and newly found cousins would add another dimension to their relationship: teammates and eventually roommates.
Neither Rippy nor Stewart could have ever predicted they’d both be in Colorado playing football together today, but both are glad with the way things have worked out.
“I wouldn’t feel as comfortable without him being here,” Rippy said. “We’re both here for each other. It’s good that we’re both here.”
Stewart adds that, “we’re here to push each other and make each other work hard so we can get starting positions.”
And with the two playing on opposite sides of the ball, they got to go up against each other plenty of times in their first season.
“I used to hate trying to catch him because he’s so quick,” Rippy said.
“I never did let him get a clean shot on me,” Stewart laughed.
After all, they don’t call him Rodney “Speedy” Stewart for nothing.
Although there’s a sense of family rivalry between these two, it is very clear that it’s a friendly competition they have going.
“We are always playing games,” Rippy said. “It’s basically a competition, but it’s just to make us better in everything we do.”
Aside from the friendly rivalry, Stewart and Rippy are very supportive of each other.
Rippy admires his cousin’s positive nature. “He’s optimistic about everything. There isn’t anything negative about Rodney. He’s good at looking at things in a positive way.”
And Stewart can’t get over how “technology smart” he says his cousin is. “He knows everything about computers and cell phones!”
In fact, Stewart remembers a time when they went to the cell phone store and his cousin was telling the employee things about the cell phones that even the employee did not know.
Rippy and Stewart also support each other in the classroom as they make sure to take several classes together. This way, they can help each other out and study for the tests collaboratively.
“I’d rather room with Rodney than anybody else because he’s basically the only one I trust,” Rippy said.
The roommates even have little nicknames for each other. When Rippy doesn’t clean the room, Stewart calls him “Dirty D,” and Rippy calls Stewart “Lil’ Smurf” because of his height (Rippy’s got about eight inches on his cousin). But both are quick to clarify that it’s just a family thing.
Rippy and Stewart plan to live together again next year. Both are looking forward to another fun season of football, and they’ll continue taking classes together throughout the rest of their college careers.
But that’s about all these two cousins know about their futures. Neither one has declared a major yet. Rippy plans on going into international affairs and Stewart is considering sociology. And as far as where they see themselves going after college, neither knows what exactly his future holds.
“I just want to let everything happen and wherever I end up, that’s what God had planned for me,” Stewart said.
Rippy agrees: “Hopefully everything will work out as I’ve planned and as I’ve dreamed.”
One thing the cousins do know about their futures is that they each will be a big part of the other’s life no matter where they end up.
“Everything he does, basically I do,” Rippy says. “It’s going to be hard for us to stay away from each other.”
And to think that a little over a year ago, Rippy never even would have guessed he’d be saying this about his old neighborhood friend.