Mark Story

Mark Story: UK-WKU game a dilemma for Tammes

Pam and Theo Tamme should be able to navigate this Saturday's routine by rote.

As they've done so many times in recent years, they will travel from Boyle County to Lexington. While the sun begins to set, they will settle in for yet another autumn evening in Commonwealth Stadium watching their child play in a Kentucky football game.

For the parents of now-former UK standout Jacob Tamme, everything on Saturday night will be exactly as it was for the five prior years ...

... except they'll be sitting with the families of the visiting players.

Seth Tamme, the middle of Pam and Theo's three children, is a sophomore wide receiver for Western Kentucky University.

Which explains why, when WKU faces Kentucky in football for the first time ever Saturday, the parents of one of the most popular UK athletes of recent memory will be decked out in red and rooting against the Cats.

"It will be very weird. Actually, it will be a little 'uncomfortable-weird,'" Pam Tamme said. "But his father and I, we plan to cheer for Seth and the Hilltoppers. I won't speak for Seth's brother. You'll have to ask him."

A rookie tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, Jacob Tamme will be in Lexington to see his brother go against his old team. The men from Peyton's place have an open date this weekend.

So, Jacob, you plan to root for your little brother or your former football brothers-in-arms?

"That's a tough question," Jacob Tamme said Wednesday. "Do I have to answer that?"

Bear with us, eventually, he will.

Intrastate matchups tend to produce complicated cross-pollination. The initial meeting between WKU and UK takes that phenomenon to an extreme.

Former Kentucky player and assistant Mike Chism coaches the tight ends for Western.

UK linebackers coach Chuck Smith — who built the Boyle County High School dynasty that won five straight Kentucky state titles from 1999-2003 — will see three of his former players in Hilltoppers red.

One of those, Western third-string quarterback Brandon Smith, is his son.

That puts Jackie Smith, Chuck's wife and Brandon's mom, in a bit of a rooting bind herself.

"She said she's going to wear white. She's neutral," Chuck Smith said.

Down in Bowling Green, Seth Tamme reports that his teammates have fully embraced the idea of his playing a significant role in WKU's offensive game plan this week.

This even though Seth, a second-string wide receiver, has yet to catch a pass this season.

"They're saying there is no way they cannot play a Tamme in Commonwealth Stadium," Seth said.

The last time a Tamme played in Commonwealth, the final home game of last season, it was one of the guttier performances in a big game ever turned in by a UK athlete.

In what ultimately became a crushing, four-overtime loss to Tennessee, Jacob Tamme closed out his Commonwealth Stadium days making one huge catch after another en route to a nine-reception, 104-yard performance.

It was the capstone on a career that saw Jacob twice named the first team All-SEC tight end.

Living up to high standards set by his older brother is something to which Seth long ago became accustomed.

The Tamme brothers grew up competing in everything — basketball, football, baseball — in their backyard. When the weather did not permit that, they took the games to the family basement.

They had elaborate rules to their contests (a neighbor, Brad Cloud, frequently played, too. Cloud is now a senior defensive back at Western). As the older brother, Jacob not only got to play, he got to referee.

On those occasions when Seth (who is three years younger) was anywhere remotely close to beating Jacob, "it was amazing, I'd always get a bad call," Seth said.

What about that, Jacob?

"Wow, he said that?" Jacob Tamme asked.

Pause.

"Actually, that's pretty close to true," Jacob said.

At Boyle County, Jacob Tamme was a member of the first four of the school's five straight football state title teams. He was also a standout basketball and baseball player.

After Jacob went on to Kentucky, Seth did a pretty fair job of carving out his own identity. In football, he finished his high school career with more than 3,000 receiving yards and 39 touchdowns and has a couple of state championship rings of his own.

Seth also started on the Boyle basketball team that played in the 2006 Sweet Sixteen.

At 6-foot, 185, Seth lacks the size of Jacob (listed at 6-3, 236 by the Colts), but he still hoped to follow his brother's path to UK.

The Cats showed some interest, but a scholarship offer never came. Seth wound up signing with Western, the school where his parents graduated and where they met.

So it isn't hard for the Tamme family to pull for WKU. They just never expected to have to pull against UK.

When the Hilltoppers wound up a late addition to the 2008 Kentucky football schedule, that set up quite a pickle for the Tammes.

Said Seth: "Mom has a UK sticker and a Western sticker on the back of her car. She claims she's going to tape over the UK sticker this week."

For Jacob Tamme, the dilemma of rooting for younger brother or a team filled with guys you played with is more vexing.

"I'm really, really proud of my brother," Jacob said.

But?

"Seth knows where I stand," Jacob said. "It's hard to root against guys you've gone to battle with and a program you feel like you put your heart and soul into. I want my brother to do very well. I'll be rooting for the Cats."

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