United by a cause, divided by football

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Kirsten Joyer went nuts when she saw that Florida would be playing Louisville in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. With a son playing for each team, it was the natural reaction.

But her elation quickly turned to panic. This meant that she was in essence going to have to choose between Hunter, a fullback at Florida, or Kamran, an offensive lineman at Louisville, because she can't sit in both team's sections.

"At first I was really excited," she said. "The two of us, [her youngest son] Chancellor and I, were jumping up and down and screaming and then I thought, 'Oh no, this is going to end bad. Who am I supposed to cheer for?' "

Turns out the answer was easy: Aaron Klingebiel.

He's not a Gator or a Cardinal, but he's going to be the big winner on Jan. 2 regardless of the outcome of the game at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

Klingebiel is an eighth grader at Weightman Middle school in Wesley Chapel, Fla., the small community near Tampa where the Joyers have lived for 17 years. He is battling a malignant brain tumor, and the Sugar Bowl matchup -- which the family is calling the Joyer Bowl -- is going to help raise money for his treatment.

Kirsten Joyer has helped organize a Sugar Bowl viewing party at the Wesley Chapel Beef 'O' Brady's restaurant. Owners Gary and Michelle Bailey have agreed to donate 15 percent of the proceeds from 6 p.m. to close to Klingebiel's family. It's the second time Joyer, a former assistant principal at Weightman Middle School, has helped raise money for him. Her band -- Kirsten Joyer and Mainstream -- performed at a benefit concert last April.

"I was talking with some of the staff from school maybe a couple of days after I found out about the boys going to the bowl game and they were like, 'He's still having to go to do all these different types of treatments and they're still having a lot of issues,' " she said. "So we just said, 'You know what, it's time for another Aaron fundraiser,' so that's what we're going to do."

Kristen Joyer's commitment to helping Klingebiel goes beyond her connection to Weightman Middle School. She nearly died from an aneurism in January 2010, but the Wesley Chapel community was there for her and her family throughout her recovery, and now she and her family are trying to do the same for Klingebiel's family.

"It was pretty hard," said Hunter, who was still in high school at the time and took over running the household because older brother Kam was at Louisville and his father Jack was on the road a lot because of his sales job. "She does a lot for us, the whole family, so we all had to pick up her roles a little bit. Not even filling in for her, but doing this for her, like taking her places, or take her to the gym or whatever she needed to do. It was difficult, but it wasn't anything we couldn't handle.

"The community and all her past co-workers were there always trying to help if we needed anything. Always supported us and let us know they had our back if we needed someone to talk to or anything."

A lot of those same people will be at Beef 'O' Brady's watching Hunter and Kam play against each other for the first time. They have Northern Illinois to thank for the opportunity. Because the Huskies finished in the top 16 in the final BCS standings and were ranked ahead of Louisville (No. 21), they got an automatic berth in the BCS. Since the Discover BCS National Championship Game is being played in Miami, NIU was sent to the Discover Orange Bowl -- which bumped Big East champ Louisville to the Sugar Bowl.

"I thought we were going to the Orange Bowl," said Kam, a 6-foot-3, 270-pound redshirt junior. "I knew it [playing Florida] was a possibility, but I didn't think it would happen.

"I guess we were kind of happy we got the opportunity to play against each other."

Hunter, a 5-10, 249-pound sophomore, called his brother as soon as the matchup was announced.

"I let him know he was Gator bait," Joyer joked.

That has pretty much been the extent of the trash-talking between the brothers. They spent five days at home for the Christmas break -- the first time the whole family has been together since spring break in April -- and while they did talk about the matchup and ask each other about teammates, they were both a bit guarded.

"We talked about each other's teams and asked questions about some of the guys on the other team," Hunter said. "I'm not giving up anything. I don't really trust him that much. He's probably got a wire on."

They did admit that they wished they could arrange a chance for them to face each other on the field, maybe convince Louisville coach Charlie Strong and Florida coach Will Muschamp to do some juggling on special teams so there could be a chance for a Joyer collision. It would hopefully end better than one of the first times that happened.

Eighth-grade Kam and sixth-grade Hunter went one-on-one in a drill. Hunter ended up on his back. Kam ended up bleeding.

"I pancaked him and his foot flew up in the air," Kam remembered. "I landed on his cleat and it cut my leg open."

When Kirsten picked them up after practice, she noticed the wound, the scar from which is still visible. Kam explained it this way: "The meat on my leg is on Hunter's cleat."

Kirsten laughed when recalling that story, but she quickly got serious a moment later when asked where she and her family are going to sit for the game: In the Louisville section or the Florida section? This time, there was no panic.

"No offense, I love you, no disrespect," she said to Kam. "But I'm sitting in the Gators section. Daddy's sitting in the Louisville section."