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Friends Washington, Stanford playing for their city, bragging right

DALLAS -- Adolphus Washington had a hunch the message would be waiting for him in the Sugar Bowl locker room.

After celebrating the 42-35 win over Alabama, Ohio State's defensive tackle grabbed his phone and checked. Yep, there it was.

"See you in Dallas."

The sender? Oregon receiver Dwayne Stanford. The best friends from Cincinnati grew up together and became stars at Taft Information Technology High together. Finally, it's time they face off.

Actually, they've battled plenty before. Stanford suggests asking Washington about the time they squared off on a basketball court in eighth grade.

"We beat 'em!" Washington argued. "I mean, I guess he wants to say he dunked on me or whatever. It didn't really play out like that. I was in the area. I wasn't under him."

This is where their bond started. Their parents worked together at Millvale Rec Center. Stanford and Washington loved playing AAU ball. Football was just something they played for fun because they were bigger and faster than everybody.

"We thought we were going to be NBA players," Washington said.

Recruiters had other plans for them. Ohio State wanted both, but they made no promises or pacts to one another. Washington picked the Buckeyes. Stanford wasn't so sure, took an official visit to Oregon and fell hard for the Ducks.

"I think it surprised a lot of people," Stanford said. "A lot of people think I just came out here for the uniforms because I like to look nice."

Neither is surprised they're playing in the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T. Stanford catches Buckeye games whenever he can. Washington has been watching Oregon all season long.

"When I watch Oregon, I'm looking at him," Washington said. "I really don't care about what everyone else is doing. Of course Marcus Mariota's the Heisman Trophy winner. I don't even watch him. I'm hoping he's throwing it to Dwayne."

He's watched Stanford emerge as one of Oregon's top targets, a big 6-foot-5 weapon with 39 catches for 578 yards and six scores. With Devon Allen, Darren Carrington and Bralon Addison out for the title game, Stanford is poised the see a lot of passes thrown his way.

And the wideout has enjoyed from afar seeing Washington rack up 9.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks while teaming with Joey Bosa and Michael Bennett on one of the nation's best defensive lines.

Hence the steady stream of text messages. When they watch, they text. Great play! You blew by that guy! I see you! It's usually quick messages sent mid-game to show they care.

"It's great to see my brother out there playing so well at a big-time school like that," Stanford said. "It's a good feeling."

So is the hometown pride. Taft is wedged in the middle of Cincinnati's West End neighborhood. Washington can think of only one other Taft grad who's played at this level of college ball: Tank Carradine, the 49ers rookie from Florida State.

"It was kind of rough there most of the time. Kind of rough," Washington said. "The school is not really known for sending people off to school for academics or for sports. For us to come out of there is a pretty big accomplishment. The school definitely shows us a lot of love when we go back."

But Washington is quick to point out that his love for Stanford gets put on hold Monday. Sure, they'd love to run into each other at midfield after the love. They'll catch up with each other's families afterward. They'll hang out together on spring break.

"But once that clock gets going and we get out there and start warming up, I'm not gonna be too happy for him," Washington said. "I'm gonna try to hurt him."

Somebody has to go home the loser. Washington sincerely hopes it's Stanford.

The wideout doesn't look at the stakes quite like that. He cares more about who gets to do all the talking back home in Cincinnati.

"To know one of us gets to go back to the high school with a championship ring is really a blessing," Stanford said.