Like old times for Kearse and Trufant

RENTON, Wash. -- Going head-to-head with Atlanta cornerback Desmond Trufant Sunday will be nothing new for Seattle receiver Jermaine Kearse.

“I think the first time was fourth grade,” Kearse said. “We were in the same youth football league.”

They’ve been going at it ever since, through their high school years in Tacoma and on to the University of Washington. Now they will face each other for the first time as NFL players.

“Me and him kind of had a little rivalry back in college,” Kearse said. “It was just the competitive nature in both of us. To go against him Sunday is going to be a lot of fun, bringing back those memories from U-Dub.”

Kearse played football at Lakes High School in Lakewood, Wash. Trufant was only a few miles away at Wilson High School in Tacoma. So the two of them have been linked together as opponents or teammates for most of their lives.

“Yeah, that’s my dude,” Trufant said on a conference call Wednesday with Seattle reporters. “We grinded together at UW for three years and got pretty close. He’s like a mentor to me, as well, but it’s going to be fun going against him.’’

The mentor comment caught Kearse by surprise when he was told about it.

“I didn’t know that,” Kearse said. “But I guess I can kind of take credit for him committing to [Washington].”

Kearse was a year ahead of Trufant in school, so he told Trufant that Washington was the place to be. It probably took some convincing since both of Trufant’s older brothers, Marcus and Isaiah, went elsewhere. All three brothers are defensive backs.

Marcus played college ball at Washington State before spending 10 seasons with the Seahawks. He was released by Jacksonville earlier this year. Isaiah, who attended Eastern Washington, is a cornerback for the Jets.

The Falcons selected Desmond as the 22nd pick of the first round of the 2013 draft. He has played well this season, with 37 tackle and one interception.

“I talked to him earlier this week,” Kearse said. “He’s been doing a great job. I congratulated him on being a first-round draft pick, which showed all his hard work paid off.”

Kearse said they had some intense battles at practice during their days at Washington.

“It was feisty,” Kearse said. “We used to go at it in practice all the time. He pushed me and I tried to push him. I tried to make him the best player he could be, as he tried to do for me.”

Trufant said Kearse was the one receiver he knew he could use to judge his coverage skills.

“I think he’s just talking me up a little bit,” Kearse said. “He’s quick and a great cover corner. Going against him definitely helped me.”

Kearse didn’t have the glamorous entry into the NFL that Trufant had. Kearse went undrafted, and signed with Seattle last year as a rookie free agent. He spent the first half of the 2012 season on the practice squad.

But Kearse has blossomed this season. He has three touchdowns on only 10 catches, and is now starting in place of Sidney Rice, who’s out for the season with a torn ACL. Kearse is the team’s kick returner, averaging 22.1 yards per return, and he also blocked a punt at Indianapolis that led to a Seattle safety.

Now Kearse gets to test is receiving skills against a familiar face. Trufant said it will be just like old times.

"We’re always going to compete, but we made each other better," Trufant said. "I’m interested to see how much he has improved. I know he’s looking forward to the same thing with me."