The Stanford-Cal sports rivalry has spawned a special kind of animus among legions of Bay Area fans.
But school loyalty be damned when it comes to Josh Huestis and Christian Dean.
Huestis plays basketball at Stanford. Dean plays soccer at Cal.
Yet, they have in common something more powerful than any rivalry: A mother.
Sutton Lindsey gave birth to the boys, 15 months apart, in Alvin, Texas. Unable to care for them, she made the heart-wrenching decision to give them up. They were adopted by separate families and grew up 1,200 miles apart. But there is nothing halfway about their brotherhood.
"He's my best friend," Dean said recently.
When Cal's top-ranked soccer team plays Stanford on Nov. 13, Huestis will be there for Dean.
"I feel bad," said the Stanford basketball player, "but I have to root for Cal."
In a family narrative as poignant as it is convoluted, adoptive parents and birth parents worked together in hopes that the boys would grow up as brothers. A challenge under any circumstances, this was made more daunting by the fact that one boy lived in East Palo Alto and the other in Great Falls, Mont.
And it started in Houston, at an adoption agency that specialized in finding families willing to let birth parents remain part of their kids' life.
"I say a prayer every day for bringing me Bonnie Huestis and Elizabeth and Bill Dean," said Lindsey, the birth mother. "It's more than I ever could have asked for."
Bonnie Huestis, a therapist from Great Falls, adopted Josh as a newborn in December 1991. Elizabeth and Bill Dean, social workers in the Bay Area, adopted baby Christian in March 1993. Lindsey could afford to keep only her oldest son, Holden.
"The choice was for all three of them," said Lindsey, now 48 and working as a manager at a clothing store. "I couldn't give all three of them what they deserved. But I could still love them just as much."
Bonnie Huestis cannot imagine the pain of such a choice.
"Nobody can love their child more than a mother like Sutton who gave them up," she said.
The boys say they respect the decision their mother made with each of them. They seem to harbor no hard feelings and have visited with her and Holden regularly in Montana and Texas.
"Once I was adopted, it would have been so easy for them to just forget about me and move on," Huestis said of his birth parents.
Unlike Dean, Huestis has a father who remained in his life. Only 19 at the time of the pregnancy, Poncho Hodges was scared. Of the adoption, he said: "I was a kid making an adult decision."
An actor now -- Hodges lives in Los Angeles and has appeared in shows such as "Sons of Anarchy" and "True Blood" -- he was a college basketball player then. The game took him to professional leagues in France, Israel, Japan and Turkey.
But he stayed in contact with his son, whom he met when Josh was 2, through letters. When Josh turned 13, they had a talk. "You'll always be my son," Hodges told him. "It didn't happen because you weren't wanted."
The summer before his senior year of high school Josh went to live with his dad in hopes of attracting college recruiters while playing for a top AAU team in Long Beach. That's where Stanford discovered the 6-foot-7 forward.
"Coaches don't come to Montana to look for basketball players," said Huestis, who led Stanford in rebounding last season with 9.0 per game and averaged 10.5 points.
Dean also is having considerable success on his field. A junior, he has been a starter for every game of his Cal career. However, amid great promise while playing for the De Anza Force Soccer Club four years ago, he took a break from the sport to live with his brother in Montana.
It was during the extended stay in Great Falls that Dean also received some brotherly advice.
"He was doing a lot of soul-searching and introspection," said Huestis, who is on track to earn a degree in psychology next year. "We talked a lot and then he realized soccer was his love and a big part of his future."
Dean returned to the Bay Area committed to soccer. He earned a degree at the School for Independent Learners in Los Altos before enrolling at Cal, where he studies social welfare.
The brothers bear a resemblance despite having different fathers. It strikes their birth mom when she hears them on the phone or sees their mannerisms.
"He's a bigger version of me," said Dean who, at 6-3, gives four inches to Huestis.
The similarities stretch to the athletic fields where both men are recognized for their defense: Huestis made the all-Pac-12 defensive team last season while Dean was an honorable mention all-conference player.
They have talked about extending their careers in the professional ranks.
Their birth mom would be thrilled if they made it, but she's already overjoyed by how it all has turned out.
"I knew I had to be part of their lives no matter what," Lindsey said. "Sometimes I don't have words for how much I love them."
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.