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Emotions mixed as Sewell brothers prepare to clash when Nevada plays Oregon

Gabriel Sewell
Gabriel Sewell will play against his brother, Penei, on Saturday. (Byrne Photos/Nevada athletics)

You might think brothers Gabriel and Penei Sewell are looking forward to playing one another Saturday when Nevada takes on Oregon.

You'd be wrong. At least from Gabriel's perspective.

“I'm looking forward to it and at the same time not," the Wolf Pack senior linebacker said. "It’s just weird going against family. It’s cool playing against him, but at the same time you'd rather not.”

Speaking to Oregon reporters, Penei, a sophomore tackle for the Ducks, expressed more excitement about the matchup, although his parents – Gabriel and Arlene – are dealing a great deal of anxiety in the days leading up to the contest.

“We’re blessed that they’ve both had the opportunity to play at the next level, but I never imagined they’d play against each other," their father said. "It’d be different if they were kids, but they’re literally grown-ass men. Watching them play against each other is one thing, but if Penei has to block Gabe and Gabe has to take on the block and there’s going to be a collision, that’s not something anybody ever wanted to see.

“I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I don’t give two (craps) about who wins the game. I just want both of them to come out healthy.”

There's a good chance the Sewells lock horns Saturday since Gabriel is a middle linebacker and Penei an offensive lineman. The younger Sewell has the clear size advantage. Penei checks in at 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds while Gabriel is listed at 5-11 and 235.

“I could usually handle him all the way up to my senior year of high school and then he kind of hit a growth spurt out of nowhere and he started asserting his authority on me," Gabriel said with a smile. "We all do it to my dad, too, now that we're all younger and stronger. But it’s all love.”

Gabriel is the eldest of the four Sewell brothers, all of whom will play FBS football. Second son, Nephi, was a two-year starter at Nevada before transferring to Utah last offseason. Penei was a national recruit who listed Nevada among his finalists before picking Oregon over Alabama and USC. The youngest brother, Noah, is a high school senior with offers from basically every major college football program. This was the dream when the Sewells moved to southern Utah from American Samoa.

“When we moved from the islands to the states, it was always about trying to put the kids in the best position to get the right opportunities for them to reach their goals," Gabriel Sewell, the father, said. "I think the boys did a great job on and off the field in the classroom to put them in this position. They worked hard and I feel grateful and blessed that they all have this opportunity.”

Added Gabriel, the son: “It’s crazy. Not too many brothers can all play Division I football or get on the same field. It’s crazy all the work we’ve put in and all of the sacrifices all of the family members made for us to get here. It’s just a blessing.”

Outside of practice drills, Nevada's Sewell can't remember ever playing against his brother in football. Wolf Pack coach Jay Norvell, who has been a coach for more than three decades, said the situation is pretty unusual. Sewell has tried to downplay the matchup by saying he and his younger brother are only a small piece to the game.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever played against my brother, but at the same time there are 10 other guys on both sides of the ball," Gabriel said. "It’s not going to be Sewell against Sewell. There’s a whole team.”

Gabriel conceded grabbing a win over his brother would be big. That's especially true because of how massive an underdog the Wolf Pack is (a 23-point dog).

“He’ll never hear the end of (if Nevada wins) and I’m pretty sure I’ll never hear the end of it (if Oregon wins)," Gabriel said. "At the end of the day, I just pray that both of us come out of the game healthy for a long season. I know he missed some games last year and that kind of stung. I’m just glad watching that (season-opening) game against Auburn he didn’t miss a step. I’m glad he’s doing what he’s doing, and I just want him to be healthy at the end of the game.”

Gabriel Sewell, the father, said while he isn't exactly excited to see his sons playing one another, he has had the game circled on his calendar for a long time because it will mark a family reunion of sorts. He expects more than 20 family members to be in attendance in Eugene. Gabriel, the son, is curious where his parents will be sitting.

“They’ll be in a bind on who to cheer for," Gabriel said. "I’m more interested in which section they sit in and what clothes they wear. We’ll see who the favorite son is.”

You won't be able to tell who the Sewells are rooting for from their clothes. They've had some specially designed for this unique situation.

“We made a T-shirt," Gabriel Sewell said. "We talked to some guys who made split jerseys and they made some renderings and I decided to talk to one of those guys who makes edits for kids who have a final five on Twitter and whatnot. We made an edit of the two boys and we put it on one T-shirt so it has both of them on it.”

Nevada's Sewell said he'll text his brother before the game wishing him luck and hoping he stays healthy. But when the whistle is snapped, don't expect either to go easy on one another.

"I'm sure when that number is called and he has to block him, and Gabe has to take on a block, they're not going to play patty cake," Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said.

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