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ASU football local products recall past Territorial Cup experiences

Many Sun Devils and Wildcats alike grew up in a 'A House Divided'

Senior wide receiver D.J. Foster (8) leaves the field before a game against Oregon on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.
Senior wide receiver D.J. Foster (8) leaves the field before a game against Oregon on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.

When you grow up in the state of Arizona, you're taught from an early age to pick a side: Wildcat or Sun Devil. Arizona vs. Arizona State in the Territorial Cup.

The Territorial Cup officially has the oldest running rivalry trophy in the NCAA history and is also one of the most heated games, it is clear to see why ASU football's matchup Saturday means much more than just an opportunity at a bowl berth.

This rings especially true to the local products on the Sun Devils roster.

"(It's the most important game of the year) every year," senior wide receiver D.J. Foster said. "Coach (Todd) Graham will tell you, it doesn't matter if you go 11-1 if you lose this game. It's a really important game. Important to our community. Important to our team. For tradition, we've got to go out and get this win."

Foster, a Scottsdale native out of Saguaro High School, said it's on the seniors, as well as the locals, to reinforce the impact of the rivalry.

During his time as a record-setter at Saguaro, it became clear that Foster had chosen his side of the rivalry in order to stay with those close to him.

"(In high school) I wasn't a huge ASU or U of A fan of the time," Foster said. "I would just keep it neutral. There were a lot of guys from the classes in front of me at Saguaro were on (ASU), so I decided to start rooting for ASU."

Redshirt senior offensive lineman Christian Westerman also grew up in the rivalry in nearby Chandler, where he attended Hamilton High School before going to Auburn and eventually transferring back to his hometown school. Westerman said the gravity of the rivalry has always loomed large on his upbringing.

"It's huge," Westerman said. "It's a big game. People from Tucson and a bunch of people from the Chandler and Tempe area competing. Just a big game."

Redshirt senior wide receiver Gary Chambers' biggest memory of the Territorial Cup came just after committing to the Sun Devils, as they traveled to Tucson to knock off the Wildcats 30-29 in double overtime on a blocked extra point. The Ironwood High School (Glendale) product recalled watching his future teammates with excitement as they picked up the season-defining win.

"I was watching on TV, and seeing all my future teammates going out there and handle business," Chambers said. "It was exciting. It definitely means a lot (to play in the Territorial Cup). Talking to alumni and to others, you know how big this game is and how it's played. I understand how serious it is and how exciting it is to go out there and play."

Redshirt junior wide receiver Fred Gammage, a Brophy College Prep graduate and Phoenix native, saw his house split on the rivalry from a young age. 

"My family is really split — half of my uncles like U of A and half of my uncles like ASU — so it's always just been a big rivalry to watch," Gammage said. "Now, to be a part of it, it's crazy. My dad actually liked U of A for a second, but as soon as I came here he had to switch over."

On Saturday, all but Gammage will have the opportunity to play in the big game for the final time in their college careers.

Practice Notes:

– Stretch songs: "Jump Around" by House of Pain and "Classic Man (Remix)" by Jidenna ft. Kendrick Lamar

– Redshirt junior linebacker Salamo Fiso, redshirt junior linebacker Laiu Moeakiola and freshman safety Kareem Orr were among the notables in green non-contact jerseys. 

Related Links:

ASU football seniors balance emotions between Senior Day and Territorial Cup

ASU football defensive back Jordan Simone is out for the season

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