It wasn't until last year that Detroit Lions veteran edge rusher Romeo Okwara got to finally share the same field with his younger brother Julian Okwara.
When Julian got to high school football growing up in Charlotte, Romeo was off to start his college career at Notre Dame. When Julian followed in his brothers' footsteps to play for the Fighting Irish, Romeo was headed to the NFL.
Last season, when the Lions drafted Julian in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the two brothers finally got to share the same field.
It meant a great deal to Romeo.
Romeo signed a reported three-year, $39 million contract Wednesday on the first day of the new NFL league year, and in a subsequent press conference, told reporters that continuing to have an opportunity to play with his younger brother was a big reason why he re-signed with the Lions.
"At the end of the day, for me, it was a pretty simple decision," Romeo said. "Being able to play with my brother, and I guess continue the vision we have and what we want to get done in the City of Detroit. That was really important to me. So, it was kind of a no-brainer to me and was able to get something done pretty quick."
Had Romeo really entertained the open market, Detroit's best defender from a season ago might have been able to get more money. But in the end, family was just more important.
Romeo posted career highs in total tackles (44), tackles for loss (11), sacks (10.0), quarterback hits (18) and forced fumbles (three) in 2020, adding one fumble recovery, one safety, a blocked extra point and a blocked punt. His 61 total pressures were top five among all defensive ends last year.
Julian, however, battled injury as a rookie and was on injured reserve for a stretch. He played in just six games. Now healthy, Julian figures into Detroit's plans on defense in 2021, and Romeo is really excited about what that might mean for the pair.
"He went through most of last year injured," Romeo said. "So we really didn't get that time on the field together. Being able to share that time with my brother on the same team is kind of unbelievable and priceless. That was very important for me (in re-signing)."
The two were neighbors this past season and spent plenty of time together over meals, especially during training camp. Romeo said Julian is probably the better cook between them.
Romeo's new three-year deal will end the same time as Julian's rookie deal after the 2023 season. Asked if that was a coincidence or not, Romeo was pretty clear it wasn't.
"At the end of the day, playing with my brother was really important to me," Romeo said. "And I wanted to get something done pretty quickly because a lot of things can happen during free agency.
"When (Detroit) drafted my brother, that was my vision. Our contracts are going to finish at the same time now. That was definitely something I wanted to get done, being able to spend the time to help develop this defense together.
"It's rare to have brothers together on the same team, let alone the same position, which I think is really special. Being able to share that with him, especially going to the same college, I don't know, it's family. I think that was something that was very, very important to me and a priceless decision and pretty easy decision for me to make."