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Old 09-15-2006, 11:34 PM   #1
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Default Friendly rivalry

Friendly rivalry

By Mike Prisuta
Saturday, September 16, 2006

Verron Haynes will get a chance to catch up with one of his best friends when the Steelers travel to Jacksonville.
A guy he went to college with, a fraternity brother.

A guy he works out with and "kicks it" with in the offseason.

And a guy who plays defensive tackle for the Jaguars.

"That's my dog," Haynes said of former Georgia teammate Marcus Stroud.

The two have dinner reservations for Sunday night at Ruth's Chris in Jacksonville. They also have a mutual appointment at 8:30 p.m. Monday at Alltel Stadium.

The good-natured trash-talking has already commenced in advance of the appetizers Sunday.

"He's alerted me that, come gametime, we're no longer friends," Haynes said. "I said, 'Man, we've been playing against each other for years, and I've never been your friend on the field.' "

The two have taken different paths to and from Georgia.

Stroud, a native of Thomasville, Ga., is 6-foot-6 and 306 pounds. He's a three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle and a former first-round draft pick (2001).

Haynes is a native of Bronx, N.Y., and a product of North Springs High School in Sandy Springs, Ga. At 5-10 and 222 pounds, he likely doesn't put away nearly as much steak as his good buddy.

Haynes came to the Steelers as a fifth-round pick in 2002 and has excelled on special teams and as their third-down back.

"We've been close since college," Haynes said. "He pledged me into my fraternity. It's been an ongoing thing.

"He's somebody that I really respect. He lives in Atlanta. We do everything together in the offseason. Great Guy. I call him 'Big Baby.' He's a teddy bear off the field, but he's an animal on the field; don't get it twisted."

The crossing of paths with Stroud in Jacksonville will be one of two such reunions Haynes gets to enjoy this season as a result of the Steelers' schedule.

"I have two friends in this league that I'm really tight with," he said. "The third person, we play against him in December, (safety) Jermaine Phillips for Tampa Bay (another former teammate from Georgia). The three of us hang together. We also work out together.

"It's a good circle."

The circle will be broken temporarily Monday night, as it was last Oct. 16 at Heinz Field.

"Last year, it was a third-down play. I was getting a few yards, and here he comes from the side," Haynes said. "After the play, he's down in my face jabbering, 'I told you I was going to get you, you ain't getting (anything) today."

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