Seth Tamme felt like he was fighting with one arm behind his back.
Oh, Philip Rivers was getting it done at quarterback. Michael Turner was putting up some nice numbers at running back. The problem for "Team Tamme" in the Western Kentucky University senior wide receiver's NFL fantasy football league was elsewhere.
"I wasn't getting anything, nothing, out of the tight end," Seth said.
The ties of family can put one in a fantasy-league bind.
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When his league's draft took place, the younger brother of Indianapolis Colts tight end Jacob Tamme was not present. Seth was dining in a Bowling Green eatery with one of his former Boyle County High School coaches and an ex-teammate. The other members of the fantasy league drafted Seth's team for him.
"When they got to like the 12th round, they took my brother for me," Seth said. "It was sort of like a joke. Jacob doesn't know that. He thinks I picked him."
Still, brotherly loyalty saw Seth keep Jacob on his roster, even though the former University of Kentucky star had caught all of six career passes for the Colts in his first two seasons in the NFL.
By week two, Seth had even benched Kellen Winslow Jr. and inserted his brother into the Team Tamme lineup.
"We talk two, three times a week," Seth said about his older brother by three years. "Every week, Jacob was like 'You should stay with me. I'm in some goal line packages this week, I may score a touchdown.' "
Week after week, that never happened. Forget a touchdown, through five games of the 2010 NFL season Jacob hadn't even caught a pass.
Brotherly loyalty has its limits. Exasperated, Seth swung a trade for Dallas Clark, the Colts' Pro Bowl tight end. His plan was to put his brother on Team Tamme's bench behind the player who was ahead of him in the actual NFL.
"I didn't think anybody could say anything if I played another guy on my brother's (real) team," Seth said.
What happened next has been one of the more unlikely stories of the 2010 pro football season — both the real one and the fantasy one.
During a week-six matchup with Washington, Clark suffered a season-ending wrist injury. Suddenly, major opportunity was at the door of Jacob.
In a Monday Night Football clash with Houston, Jacob equaled in one game his previous career NFL output with six catches. The 64 yards receiving he had against the Texans surpassed his prior career total of 47. He caught his first NFL touchdown pass.
The next week against Philadelphia, Peyton Manning connected with Jacob 11 times for 108 yards and another score. Jacob became only the second tight end (joining Clark) in Colts history to catch as many as 11 passes in one game.
Last Sunday, Jacob hauled in seven more passes for 73 yards against the Bengals.
After two-and-a-half years as a largely anonymous special teams player, Jacob suddenly is an NFL hot commodity
ESPN.com's AFC South Blog named him its "High Energy Player of the Week" after the Cincinnati game. In a headline, Pro Football Weekly referred to him as Indy's new "it man." A blog on the NFL News Web site proclaimed "say hello to Dallas Clark Jr."
"It's been a lot of fun," Jacob Tamme said. "In this league, you always have to prepare as if you are the guy because you are always one play from being out there playing. That's what happened, and I feel like I was prepared."
Indianapolis chose Tamme in the fourth round of the 2008 NFL Draft following his two back-to-back All-SEC seasons at Kentucky. The consensus was that it was the perfect system for a smallish (6-foot-3, 236-pound), play-making tight end who started out as a wide receiver at Boyle County High and at UK.
Yet with Clark in front of him, there was a chance Jacob would never get an opportunity to show what he could do on anything other than Indy's special teams.
"I haven't worried about that, not really," Jacob said. "I've always approached it that the Lord has a plan for me, whether that was to be a special teams player or a full-time tight end, whether it is to play 12 years in the league or a couple more weeks. I've always tried to accept that getting to do this is a blessing every day and take it as my job to make the most out of it I can."
Jacob is certainly getting the max from his NFL ride. He finished last season playing in the Super Bowl, although losing to the Saints "made that sort of a sour experience," he says.
This season, he made his first career start on Monday Night Football.
Which was more nerve-racking?
"Honestly, I've not really felt nervous either time," he said. "I honestly felt prepared both times. I mean, you get anxious, excited about playing but once that first play happens, you're just playing football wherever it is."
Down at Western, Jacob Tamme's little brother has been part of a memorable football season in 2010, too. After the Hilltoppers lost 26 games in a row during their first years since moving up to the FBS, WKU has won two of its last four.
Seth's NFL fantasy league team is hot, too. Suddenly getting massive production at the tight end spot, Team Tamme is leading its division.
"My brother, he's now like the most productive tight end in the league," Seth said. "I'm happy for him and I'm happy for me. It's a good thing I didn't cut him loose."
Says Jacob Tamme: "I don't know exactly how (fantasy football) works, but I'd think the last three weeks my brother has done pretty well for sticking with me."
Turns out, it can pay to be a keeper of your brother.