Their entire life Arie Kouandjio has been there for his younger brother. Offering advice, tips on the game of football and what to expect when it came to playing at the college level when he followed him to Alabama. Arie often had the answers for his brother Cyrus. Heading into the NFL combine this week those roles have been reversed.
Cyrus Kouandjio just completed his first season in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills after the club made him a second-round pick in the 2014 draft. Kouandjio was an early entry candidate and leapfrogged his brother to the NFL.
Arie Kouandjio, who is just 14 months older than Cyrus, lost time on the field due to a medical redshirt and came back as a redshirt senior this season to put a cap on his college career at Alabama.
Much like his younger brother did a year ago, Arie Kouandjio has been preparing for this year's NFL combine in Indianapolis. He's been working out in Scottsdale, Arizona while his younger brother is doing much different football-related training in Chandler, Arizona.
Cyrus hasn't been asked too many questions by his brother about what to expect in Indianapolis this week, but he has quickly learned that training for the combine is nothing like training for real football.
"Preparing for the combine is basically like preparing for a track event," said Cyrus Kouandjio. "There's a lot of specific events and you have to prepare for each one. Offensive linemen have no reason being on the field doing sprints and stuff. You do what you've got to do I guess.
"I just tell him and want him to know that the combine is just the beginning. He has his whole future ahead of him in football. The combine is just a small part. So I told him don't get too worried or too stressed out. Just do what you do."
The younger Kouandjio should know that first-hand. The offensive tackle did not have a strong performance during a lot of the on the field drills like the 40-yard dash, the vertical leap and the broad jump last year. A lot of questions were also raised about his knee surgery even before he arrived at the combine prompting a flurry of questions from the media about his health.
Arie Kouandjio might get just as extensive a medical exam from the team doctors on hand in Indianapolis after a couple of knee surgeries in his college career.
"More than just the medical exam, the whole process is really trying," said Cyrus. "You get no sleep. You've got mental tests, physical tests and interviews. It's just a time consuming process. It's worth it though."
The formal interviews with teams are another part of the combine that can stress some players out, but Cyrus kept the advice simple for his older brother.
"I just told him basically that he should just be himself," said the younger Kouandjio. "Don't go in there and try to be smart just be honest. Let them know who you are. He's got a good future ahead of him. This process can be overrated at times. I just tell him it's important yes, but you have your whole future ahead of you. You're going to be on a team whichever one you go to and that's the last time in your life that you have to go through a combine. I told him he needs to be more focused on the football stuff on the field than the talent show they try to put on."
The younger Kouandjio intends to watch as his older brother performs in workouts on Friday, but he's made sure to tell Arie that for an offensive lineman there shouldn't be a great deal of consternation over how he performs.
"I'm looking forward to see what he does. I'm proud of my brother so I want to see him do great things. I do remind him to do his best, but don't get nervous or anything because it's just the beginning. The coaches have already seen all his film and can see what he can do on the field. The combine I feel a lot of things there are for skill guys and athletes, so don't get your head wrapped around all that stuff.
"When you get on a team it really does not matter what you ran in the 40 or the 'L' drill. Nobody cares. The only thing that matters is blocking that 350-pound dude who is trying to rip your head off. The 40 means nothing. That's why the coaches rely on the film they see of you going against a 350-pound guy, not the film of how high you jump."
Cyrus Kouandjio is a perfect example of that fact. Questions about his knee surgery and a subpar workout may have kept him out of the first round last May, but they didn't keep him from becoming a high second-round pick. Kouandjio, however, doesn't see himself that way.
"I don't think I'm an example for him because every man has to travel his own path," he said. "His path is a lot longer than my path. Nobody knows where he'll be in a year or what he'll do at the combine. Nobody knows all those variables. I just wish the best for him and success."
Arie Kouandjio is projected to come off the board sometime on day two of the draft.