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Brothers brawl, but both land on the top

The Baltimore Sun

Dawan Landry and his little brother, LaRon, have taken different roads to the NFL, have played different positions along the way, and years after leaving their tiny Louisiana hometown, have wound up on teams about an hour apart.

They started in the same place, in the backyard of the family's home in Ama, La., whaling on each other from the earliest age.

"We never really had stitches," recalled Dawan, now 24. "When I was 5 and LaRon was 3, my dad bought us boxing gloves. He didn't really want us to hurt each other. When we got mad, we put on the boxing gloves."

Said LaRon, 22, "Sometimes we put the boxing gloves on, get mad and take them off and use our fists. I guess that's where the toughness and everything came from."

From those brotherly brawls came the genesis of two promising NFL careers: Dawan, in his second season with the Ravens after being drafted in the fifth round last year; LaRon, a rookie with the Washington Redskins who was the No. 6 overall pick in this year's draft.

"We were very competitive growing up," Dawan said last week. "We had an older brother and a lot of older cousins, and we had to be tough to play with them."

The two younger Landry brothers fought about everything, from which part each would sing in their favorite music video and, as they got older, who was going to drive the car to school, or get the car to go out at night.

It continued until Dawan left for Georgia Tech.

"When he went off to college, I was like, 'Man, I really miss him," LaRon said recently.

There will be something of an unofficial Landry family reunion tomorrow night at FedEx Field in Landover, when the Ravens and Redskins meet in a preseason game. Frank Landry and his wife, Rhonda, will be there to watch their sons, as will several aunts, uncles and cousins.

Because the Landrys play safety for their respective teams, there won't be any reenactments from childhood.

How did two brothers from a town of about 1,000 people and no traffic lights, located 30 minutes west of New Orleans, wind up in the NFL?

"You just work with them and pray and hope they stay focused," said Frank Landry, who attended nearly every one of his sons' games and most of their practices growing up, then split the college games with Rhonda and now attends at least one of their home games every weekend.

Louis Valdin, who took over as football coach at Hahnville High School when Dawan was a junior, said Frank Landry, a retired electrician for Monsanto, was the unofficial "athletic director of Ama," driving his sons and other players to and from games and practices.

The oldest of the brothers, Derrick Bossier, now 28, said their father had a lot to do with his two younger siblings making the NFL.

"He was always our worst critic. If you had a stellar game, he'd always be there to push you a step further ... to the limit," said Bossier, who played defensive end at Vanderbilt and is now an engineering manager for General Motors in Shreveport, La.

The senior Landry credits Ama with his family's good fortune.

"Like it's said, it takes a village to raise a kid. The neighbors would watch the kids, and if one of them got out of order, they would say, 'I saw LaRon doing this.' Everybody knew everybody's business," Frank Landry said.

It also didn't hurt to see their older brother go off to college.

"He was a very good role model for Dawan and LaRon," Frank Landry said. "When Dawan went to Georgia Tech, he wanted to go for electrical engineering. He went the easier route and took up business management."

Besides changing majors, Dawan changed positions during the spring of his freshman year in Atlanta, going from quarterback to safety, after Chan Gailey had taken over from George O'Leary and went from more of an option offense to a pro set.

"When they switched me over, at first I was down and out about it," Dawan said. "I talked to my dad and he told me to just go out there and hit people and try it out. As I started working out, I started to like hitting people instead of getting hit."

Landry listened to his father. He gained a reputation as a ferocious hitter at Georgia Tech and saw his stature grow last season when he separated Oakland Raiders receiver Alvis Whitted from his helmet with a hit during the second week of Landry's rookie year.

"I like playing physical, that's part of my game. The hits just come with the territory. I'm not trying just to make a blow-up hit or things like that," Landry said last week. "If you do that, you might overrun a guy or miss a tackle. I just try to make a tackle and when the play comes, I make plays."

Playing alongside fellow Louisianian and three-time Pro Bowl player Ed Reed, Landry led all NFL rookies last season with five interceptions.

Landry is hoping to play even better this season.

"I'm like light years ahead of last year, just with the mental aspect, not so much physically," Landry said during the team's training camp at McDaniel College in Westminster. "Just knowing my assignment this year. Last year I was learning on the go and things like that; this year it's coming more naturally."

LaRon started as a quarterback, too, until the first practice of his sophomore year at Hahnville.

"Our starting safety was out with an eye injury, and on one of the first plays of practice, LaRon just smacked our star receiver," Valdin recalled. "I yelled at him and then I looked over at our defensive backs coach and said, 'Did you see that?' A star was born."

LaRon went back to quarterback for his senior year and wound up playing both ways.

"Dawan had a lot of good players around him, but when LaRon was a senior, he was the team," Valdin said. "Dawan led by example. He was always the hardest worker on the team. LaRon led by fear. If it was fourth down in a big game, he'd tell the other team's defensive back that he was going to throw long."

Dawan sees his younger brother experiencing some of the same things he did a year ago, right down to the rookie hazing.

"I don't try to say my road was harder or anything like that," Dawan said. "We both had to do the same thing. Maybe he was guaranteed a spot being a first-round pick, and I had to prove myself, but he's gone through the same thing as I did in training camp. He had to prove himself."

LaRon came to Redskins camp in Ashburn, Va., after a four-day holdout, and with the kind of expectations his older brother didn't have a year ago. LaRon, too, made an immediate impression, sacking Tennessee Titans quarterback Kerry Collins in his NFL preseason debut.

"He's built like Superman," veteran Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs said. "He's got good genes. I like his desire and his attitude. He brings an attitude like, 'I'm going to tear you up.' He works and he listens. For a young man he comes in humble and ready to work."

A four-year starter at LSU who played on a national championship team as a freshman, LaRon credits his older brother for giving him advice about staying in Baton Rouge after his junior year, and with preparing him for the NFL combine in Indianapolis earlier this year.

"That was my biggest thing that he helped me out with, preparing me for the next level, being mentally tough. He used to tell me that it's a whole different level, you've got to watch game film, get into the playbook," LaRon said. "I think that's why I excelled so much at the combine, in the interviews and everything."

LaRon acknowledges that he has taken on some of his older brother's attributes in recent years.

"He was always a perfectionist, a workout junkie, a gym rat," LaRon said. "I didn't have to work out. I used to play on God-given talent. He'd tell me that would only last so long and once you get to the next level, you've got to get on it. I developed my workout."

Dawan came back after offseason workouts looking as if he had new biceps blown up on his arms.

Not that his little brother was that impressed.

"My arms," LaRon said, "are a little bigger than his."

Time to put on the boxing gloves?

don.markus@baltsun.com

Comparing the Landry brothers

DAWAN LaRON

Date of birth 12-30-82 10-14-84

Height 6 feet 6 feet

Weight 215 213

College Georgia Tech LSU

NFL team Ravens Redskins

Drafted 146th overall (2006) Sixth overall (2007)

Contract $360,000 (2007) Five years, $41.5 million

High school Led Hahnville of Boutte, La., to Accounted for 28 TDs;

highlight 11-0 record as a senior intercepted eight passes

College Switched from QB to safety as Started 10 games on national

freshman; second-team championship team

All-ACC as a senior. as a freshman; led Tigers

in tackles three times; first-team

All-American as a senior.

NFL Intercepted five passes in 2006, Had a sack in preseason debut

most among rookies

DON MARKUS

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