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Playing in a Bigger Game
Steve Rushin
November 13, 2006
FELIX AND OSCAR, meet Carl and Kierstan, roommates in a small apartment near the University of Oklahoma campus, where Carl plays defensive tackle for the Sooners and Kierstan plays video games while scarfing down Carl's groceries. Carl is a clean freak, "anal about neatness—my friends say I'm OCD." Kierstan squeezes the toothpaste from the top of the tube, bathes with reluctance and walks around the living room half-naked. "Put some clothes on, man," sighs Carl.
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November 13, 2006

Playing In A Bigger Game

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FELIX AND OSCAR, meet Carl and Kierstan, roommates in a small apartment near the University of Oklahoma campus, where Carl plays defensive tackle for the Sooners and Kierstan plays video games while scarfing down Carl's groceries. Carl is a clean freak, "anal about neatness—my friends say I'm OCD." Kierstan squeezes the toothpaste from the top of the tube, bathes with reluctance and walks around the living room half-naked. "Put some clothes on, man," sighs Carl.

Carl is reserved, Kierstan outgoing. "It's easy to make friends," says Kierstan, who transferred to Norman this fall and instantly became a campus chick magnet. "You just go up to someone and say, 'Hi, do you want to be my friend?'" Carl, too, is a kind of people person—a person who likes to hit people. "The opportunity to nail a quarterback is priceless," he says. "It's almost scary when you make that sack and 85,000 people erupt."

Funny thing: Carl and Kierstan are opposites, like Felix and Oscar, but they're also inseparable, like Chang and Eng. "Kierstan has given me a lot of wisdom and taught me a lot of patience," says Carl. And then he excuses himself for 30 minutes to draw Kierstan a bath, check his homework and tuck him into bed. Carl Pendleton, 22, is father, mother and brother to Kierstan Pendleton, his 10-year-old biological cousin.

Father: Carl wakes Kierstan every morning at 6:15—singing—at which time they recite a morning devotional. "I'm tough on him, because I want him to be great," says Carl, who has started 20 games in three years for the Sooners. "He's a smart kid, and it's best to get the laziness out of him at an early age."

Mother: Carl cooks Kierstan's dinner, washes Kierstan's clothes and buys Kierstan sneakers whenever he runs a hole through a sole. "I just bought him those shoes," says the 6'5", 269-pound everymom. "But how do you tell a kid not to play?"

Brother: Carl and Kierstan are brothers. Carl's parents, Carl and Nechia, adopted Kierstan when he was nine months old and a so-called crack baby—an epithet presumed to doom him to a life of despair. "A lot of times in life, people tell you what your circumstances are," says Carl. "But God gave him these amazing abilities."

Kierstan weighs only 72 pounds, but it's all brains, energy and exuberance. He begs Carl to let him play tackle football, but his brother—sounding more like his mother—has refused, partly to protect his body and partly to protect his grades.

Kierstan and Carl became roommates this past summer, when their parents—going through a shattering divorce—decided it was the best arrangement for everyone.

Soon after, Carl was asked to speak to a church group, which offered him an honorarium. "That's not necessary," he demurred. "We don't need it."

"But we're broke!" shouted Kierstan.

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