By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
FOXBORO The conversations don't last long, and aren't that frequent.
But there's no mistaking San Diego Chargers linebacker Takeo Spikes is proud of his cousin, New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes.
"He's a good football player," Takeo Spikes said. "He's a good football player for their system, and what they have."
The numbers certainly bear this out.
As a rookie last season, Brandon racked up 61 tackles in 12 games with eight starts after an illustrious career at Florida in which he was a two-time All-American and was part of two (2007 and 2009) national championship teams. However, a horrible 40-yard dash time - he clocked in at 5.06 seconds - saw his stock plummet into the second round of the draft.
While he was slowed by injuries during the preseason, Brandon is gradually working his way back into resuming his spot as a starting inside linebacker - the same position his cousin Takeo plays - in New England's 3-4 defense. In Sunday's 35-21 win over San Diego, Brandon had two tackles while his cousin Takeo racked up seven.
Takeo, who grew up in Georgia, said he didn't learn that they were cousins until a few years ago.
"I always knew I had family in that area (North Carolina), but I never knew (who)," said Takeo, 34. "I just did a little research and found out."
What he discovered was a young, hard-hitting linebacker whose aspirations - to play in the NFL - were no different than his when he was that age.
Leading up to the 2010 NFL draft, Takeo was hoping his team at the time, San Francisco, would use one of their early draft picks - the 49ers had three in the first two rounds that year - to select his cousin.
Instead, San Francisco used its first-round picks on a pair of offensive linemen, and used its second-round pick, 49th overall, to draft Southern Cal free safety Taylor Mays.
Thirteen picks later, Brandon Spikes was a Patriot.
Takeo sees a tremendous amount of talent, growth and potential in Brandon, an assessment he says he would have come to regardless of them having the same bloodline.
"He has a natural knack for the ball," Takeo said. "A lot of people not blessed with (his) instincts. He plays aggressive. Good athlete. Those intangibles alone his pedigree, where he came from. He won a lot of football games at Florida. Not only was he part of it; he was an integral part of it. He was one of the leaders."