CU-CSU rivalry has special meaning for in-state players

Updated: August 25, 2003, 8:43 PM ET

BOULDER, Colo. -- The relationship between Sean Tufts and J.J. Stepien goes back to Cherry Creek High School, back when they were teammates. They are still good friends -- to a point.

Tufts is a starting linebacker for Colorado and Stepien is a defensive end for Colorado State.

The rivalry between the two schools means something to all the players, but especially to those who grew up in the state.

"Being in Colorado, I have a lot of friends and people that I know back in (Grand) Junction that are CSU fans," CU defensive end Marques Harris said. "I had friends from high school go to CSU. So when I go home for break, or whatever it may be, people always talk about the CSU game and what happened. So it does mean a lot."

Tufts hasn't talked to Stepien for the most of the past month. With the two teams opening their seasons in Denver Saturday at Invesco Field at Mile High, "it depends on who wins to see if we talk after," Tufts said.

The Rams have beaten the Buffaloes in three of their last four meetings. The success has dramatically altered the importance of the game, primarily for CU, which used to dismiss the Rams as an underdog.

This year, the Buffaloes began preparing for Colorado State during spring football and kept it up during preseason workouts.

"It's big for everybody," said CU defensive end Matt McChesney, who knows CSU halfback Joel Dreesen and free safety Landon Jones. "But I definitely think that the in-state guys have an extra level of something else. I don't know what you'd call it.

"The Colorado kids that grew up and went to CSU and the Colorado kids that grew up and went to CU, they knew going into it that they were going to have to line up every year and play each other. They picked the school that they went to in order to try and beat the other school."

Added Tufts: "That's definitely part of it. I know it's a big rivalry for everyone that's been here for more than a year. So we're definitely ready to play."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index