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Sumter's Fortune, Craft have fun with future USC-UNC rivalry

By DENNIS BRUNSON dennis@theitem.com
Posted 8/22/19

Tylee Craft and O'Donnell Fortune have been friends since elementary school, playing on the same recreation league football team and playing basketball together. In fact, Craft has been told they are "cousins by marriage," even though he has never …

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Sumter's Fortune, Craft have fun with future USC-UNC rivalry

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Tylee Craft and O'Donnell Fortune have been friends since elementary school, playing on the same recreation league football team and playing basketball together. In fact, Craft has been told they are "cousins by marriage," even though he has never sought to verify that.

They are senior teammates on the Sumter High School football team, Fortune a defensive back, Craft a wide receiver. While they're after the same goal on Friday night, they compete against each other in practice each week leading up to the game. That has always led to chatter between the two, and the fact that the two are now verbally committed to different Power 5 Conference schools has added a different flavor to the jawing.

There's always some North Carolina-South Carolina trash talk," said Fortune, who committed to South Carolina in June, while Craft made a verbal commitment to North Carolina in April. "It's about who's the real Carolina."

Their colleges of choice will get to decide that -at least on the football field - on Saturday, Aug. 31, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. Craft and Fortune will both be at the game, traveling separately but meeting at the stadium. Neither knows what their itinerary will be once there, whether they'll be on the sidelines, in the stands or wherever.

"We've just been saying to each other, 'We're going to beat you,' " Craft said. "It's going to be cool. We've been talking a little. I call them Gamechickens, stuff like that."

While the duo has said neither has made a real big issue about the college rivalry, both Craft and Fortune say their Sumter High teammates have a vested interest in pushing the rivalry.

"They're egging everything on," Craft said. "Whether they're in a water break or on the sidelines, when they see us line up against each other it's always about USC versus UNC."

"It's all the time," Fortune said. "They always have something going on about UNC against South Carolina."

While deflecting some of the "blame" on to their teammates, both Fortune and Craft do admit they've both enjoyed a bit of verbal jousting whenever they've been lined up across from each other in practice.

"I've always said to him, 'You've got to show me something,'" Fortune said. "'You can't pass me. I won't let you pass me.'"

"I always ask him, 'Are you ready,' " Craft said. "He might be in man(-to-man) coverage, and I'll tell him to come a little closer, try to get him in press man just to egg him on a little bit."

Craft said that while Fortune has responded to his taunts on occasion by taking a step forward, there has never been a time where the two have really been mad with each other. However, that doesn't mean they don't get irritated at times.

"There have been a couple of times," Craft said. "Maybe the quarterback messes up on a throw, and he starts talking a little trash."

Fortune said he and Craft sometimes lock up more as players than as talkers.

"I'll get physical, and he'll get physical," Fortune said. "And we both know when we're getting mad, but it's never gone anywhere close to that far."