A Football Fraternity

Writer: 
November 30, 2009
Gaining momentum:

Brothers Chris Cutcliffe and Marcus Hilliard. Jon Gardiner

 

Chris Cutcliffe and Marcus Hilliard have been friends since the first day of sixth grade in Oxford, Mississippi, in 1999. They share the same jokes, the same love of sports, and they both want to be football coaches, just like the man they both call Dad.

Chris and Marcus aren't just like brothers. They are brothers, which tends to surprise some folks. “People sometimes do a double take,” says Marcus, who is black, while Chris is white. “They say really? No! You're pulling my leg.”

The story isn't all that complicated. Marcus's mother, Genevieve, who raised him, suffered from lung cancer. When she died, in 2002, the ninth-grader had trouble finding family members who could offer him a stable home. That's where David Cutcliffe and his wife, Karen, stepped in. It seemed only natural that the head football coach at the University of Mississippi would open his home to his son's best friend. “By the time he moved in with us, he was already part of the family,” says Chris.

“They treat me like they'd raised me my whole life,” Marcus says. “I love all of them to death. I tell people I've been blessed enough to have two moms.”

When the rest of the Cutcliffe family moved to Durham from Knoxville last year, Chris and Marcus stayed behind to finish college at the University of Tennessee, working as student managers for the Volunteers' football team and listening to Duke games on XM satellite radio. Now they're both at Duke. Chris, who got married during the offseason, is a graduate student in education, volunteering as a student teacher at Northern High School . Marcus is working as an intern in sports marketing.

They both help out around the football program—Marcus, in particular, who is shadowing receivers coach Scottie Montgomery '00 as much as he can. For Duke's first victory of the season, a 35-19 road win over Army, Marcus and Chris listened in on the offensive team meeting and then spent the afternoon on the sidelines, charting plays.

“We pretty much just talk football,” says Marcus.

Chris begs to differ, just a bit. “We mess with each other, and aggravate each other sometimes,” Chris says with a smile.

Isn't that what brothers do?