Three and a half years ago, Paul Richardson and his cousin, Shaquille Richardson, were excited about playing football together at UCLA.
Then, life changed. An off the field incident during the summer of 2010 led former Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel to dismiss the Richardsons, along with linebacker Josh Shirley, from the team. They had yet to begin their freshman season.
In the aftermath, Paul Richardson accepted a scholarship at Colorado, Shaquille Richardson landed at Arizona and Shirley at Washington.
The incident broke up the cousins, who have been close their entire lives, but as they prepare to square off against each other on Saturday, Paul Richardson doesn't have a shred of regret.
"I think things did turn out the way we wanted, at the end of the day," Paul said. "He went to Arizona and started all four years and I've been starting since my freshman year, as well, so I think it went perfectly.
"Don't dwell on the past. We know that we were blessed with this second opportunity and we've been making the most of it."
Colorado (3-3, 0-3 Pac-12) will host Arizona (4-2, 1-2) on Saturday at 6 p.m. Chances are, Paul, a star wide receiver, will have a few opportunities to go one-on-one against Shaquille, a standout cornerback.
"He's not going to be following me around (on every play), but whenever we are matched up, it'll be very competitive," said Paul, a junior.
Born just a few months apart, Paul and Shaquille, now a senior, grew up near each other and have had countless battles on the field.
"We haven't had a year when we haven't gone against each other," Paul said. "We go at it a lot in the offseason. That's why we compete the way we do at such a high level."
They have met just once in college, though. Two years ago, the Wildcats visited Boulder. Both played, but Shaquille was nursing an ankle sprain and that was Paul's first game back from a knee injury. Paul caught just one pass, for 2 yards.
This time, they are coming in at the top of their games.
Paul ranks fourth in the country with 130.3 receiving yards per game. Shaquille, who is considered a potential NFL draft pick next spring, has picked off a pair of passes.
"This will be the first game that we really get to go at each other and compete," Paul said.
When they do line up against each other on Saturday, expect intense battles.
"We get after it," said Paul, who added that he and Shaquille frequently give each other tips on how to play better. "You would think we hate each other. We have a lot of respect for each other, but we know that sometimes there's not enough food on the plate for us both to eat and somebody has to go after it."
When the game is over, though, family will take center stage again. Paul expects as many as 20 members of the family in attendance Saturday. It'll be the last time the Richardson's get to see Paul and Shaquille on the field together at the college level.
"We have to make the most of it because these are your biggest memories at this level," Paul said.
CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said Michael Adkins and Christian Powell have separated themselves as CU's top two running backs, but that junior Tony Jones will have a role, too. "We have some things for Tony to do also," MacIntyre said. ... MacIntyre said facing Arizona will test CU's tackling ability, which has been an issue in the past. "We'll get a steady dose of it to see if we've improved," he said. "Especially from the spring practices, I feel like we've really improved." ... Running back Josh Ford (ankle) is not close to returning, but MacIntyre said he hopes Ford will be back this season.