They met near the 25-yard line Thursday night, with a couple of photographers snapping pictures and a few teammates watching curiously. "This is crazy," Xavier Omon said as he spotted Ogemdi Nwagbuo, shook his hand and hugged him. The preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and the San Diego Chargers hadn't even started. But Omon had already gotten one huge thing out of the way.
He'd met his half-brother for the first time.
Nine months after finding out they were related, Nwagbuo, a defensive lineman for the Chargers, and Omon, a backup running back for San Francisco, met during pregame warm-ups at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Their meeting lasted for more than 10 minutes, and a few hours later, the brothers were battling each other in their final auditions before this weekend's roster cutdowns.
"It was fun. It felt normal," Omon said after his 49ers beat the Chargers 20-17. "We started laughing when we saw each other. I don't know what was so funny, but we were laughing."
Omon's mother found out they were half-brothers last winter while catching up with an old acquaintance on Facebook. (Their father, Chris Nwagbuo, who left Ogemdi's family in 1999, died in 2004.) In the past nine months, the brothers have communicated almost daily via text, Skype and phone calls.
But when the game started, touchy-feely emotions were long gone. Nwagbuo and Stephen Cooper slammed Omon to the ground after a 1-yard gain to start the second half. Nwagbuo didn't help Omon up and walked back to the huddle. It was just another play. Omon had 11 rushes for 35 yards and caught a 33-yard pass. Nwagbuo had two tackles.
In earlier interviews with ESPN.com, Omon said finding Nwagbuo has helped fill some holes in his life. He lost two brothers by the time he was 15 years old. He admits to being fairly aggressive in pursuing his new family, which also includes three other half-siblings. On Thursday night, Omon also met Gerald Nwagbuo, who was sitting in the stands. Gerald, who's a year younger than Ogemdi, is said to bear a closer resemblance to Omon. They teasingly call each other "ugly."
Omon spotted Gerald in the stands after the game, shook his hand and exchanged a few brotherly barbs. Then Omon headed to the airport and back to San Francisco, where he will await his cutdown fate. He hopes to return soon to spend time with the Nwagbuos. He said Thursday night's meeting went better than he hoped.
"You know what? To me, it was a big step in the right direction," Omon said. "Getting to meet my family that I've been needing basically my whole life, it was a big step in the new part of my life. I'll never forget this day for the rest of my life."
Elizabeth Merrill is a senior writer for ESPN.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.