How many high school seniors can brag to their teammates and friends about picking up free tips from an NFL star?
How many of those same young football players, as they enter college at one of the premier football factories in the country, end up maintaining the relationship with their Pro Bowl buddy, who also once attended that same college power?
How many of those players end up carving their own path in the league, getting drafted within the first six picks?
How many of them bounce back from a bruised lung in the preseason of their rookie seasons to start what many anticipate to be a good and long career?
And how many of those guys, within their first four games as a professional, get to say they went up against their mentor and battled and scraped with him for four quarters, using his techniques and methods against him?
Not many, but count Browns defensive end Barkevious Mingo among the select few.
When the Bengals and Browns meet Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, it will mark the first time Mingo will get to face Cincinnati's left offensive tackle, Andrew Whitworth. Since Mingo's days at West Monroe High in Monroe, La., Whitworth has served as an older football brother, offering football advice and providing mechanical assistance when trying to prepare Mingo for the next few steps of his playing career. Whitworth is nearly nine years Mingo's senior, but he felt an obligation five years ago to help one of his high school's rising talents.
This weekend, at long last, the student has his chance to face the master.
We start off Friday's Morning Stripes by taking a look at their time together:
Whitworth spoke for several minutes to reporters earlier this week about his experiences with Mingo, a first-round pick in this year's draft out of LSU. Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson has this look at the dynamic the pair share. One of Whitworth and Mingo's former coaches spoke to Hobson about the two players and offered his opinion on who he thought might win the matchup between them. The cagey veteran gets his vote.
While you're looking to Mingo to spark Cleveland's defense in the Bengals-Browns game Sunday, expect fellow defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson to do the same for Cincinnati. The pair played key roles in last week's win over Green Bay, and along with the rest of the young Bengals defensive line, are finally coming into their own, FoxSports Ohio's Kevin Goheen writes. As defensive tackle Domata Peko put it, the Bengals' front four are "just scratching the surface" of their potential.
Even though the Bengals' defense was rather strong overall against the Packers last week, the group still contends it has its share of work to do. Specifically, the unit would like to continue forcing turnovers. These hopes come on the heels of a three-turnover performance Sunday, when Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was intercepted twice, and Cincinnati's defenders forced a crucial fourth-down fumble that was returned for the eventual game-winning score. The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Dehner Jr. writes that even after all of that, the Bengals' defenders aren't satisfied.
One Browns player who will be trying to hold onto the ball as often as possible is newly signed running back Willis McGahee. The veteran was added to Cleveland's roster just after the Browns traded away former first-round pick Trent Richardson last week. According to the Akron Beacon Journal, McGahee is vowing for "dramatic improvement" to come to the rushing game, beginning this weekend.