INDIANAPOLIS - Tuesday evening, New England Patriot Deion Branch, nursing a bout of the stomach flu, had little to do here in his hotel. He decided to reach out and text someone.
"There he goes, texting me and talking junk," said New York Giants safety Deon Grant. "I expected it. He always does."
Bitter rivals on the field through their entire careers, Branch and Grant collide again Sunday in Super Bowl XLVI.
They'll play the game on FieldTurf, but both know all too well, it's a rivalry bred in the rich Georgia clay.
"Oh, no doubt, no doubt, we ride high on Georgia (high school) football," said Grant, a 32-year-old from Augusta, who played at T.W. Josey High. "We were raised on red clay. When I see another Georgia player, I say, 'What's up, Red?' We stand by it. We know some of the best athletes in this game have come from there. We definitely ride strong and high, being from Georgia."
This Deion vs. Deon rivalry began in the 1996 playoffs when Josey, thanks to Grant, got the best of Branch and his Albany Monroe mates in a playoff showdown.
But it was in that game that Monroe coach Vernorris Bradley first saw a grand future for Branch.
"He was way behind and he ran down Deon Grant from behind," Bradley told The Eagle-Tribune in 2002. "That's when I knew he was special."
Grant went on to play at Tennessee and Branch, after two years at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Miss., went to Louisville.
Each has prospered in the pros, with Branch playing 10 years with New England and Seattle, and Grant in his 11th season with stops in Jacksonville, Carolina, Seattle and currently the Giants. The two renewed acquaintances for the first time as pros in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
"I got him in high school, and he's had the best of me ever since," said Grant, who signed before the season with the Giants. "He beat me in that Super Bowl (Branch caught 10 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown). He's gotten the best of me period, since we've been in the NFL."
"And I hope that it continues," joked Branch.
Fierce rivals on the field, Grant, a heavy-hitting 6-2, 215-pound safety, is the kind of heavy-thumping safety that often has the smaller Branch (5-9, 195 pounds) diving for cover.
But that rivalry doesn't affect the friendship that is now more than a dozen years strong. "That's my guy, that's my brother before and after the game," said Branch. "These are those special memories. These are memories we can sit back and talk about when we are done."
And when they do, both Grant and Branch will agree on one thing.
"Georgia high school football is the best there is."