ATLANTA - David got the good times started early Monday night.
With family members from across the country in town to watch David Irons' Atlanta Falcons take on Kenny Irons' Cincinnati Bengals, David made the trip worth its while with a tackle on the first play of the game.
In one of the many roles he's earned on the Falcons, the sixth-round draft choice brought down the Bengals' Tab Perry on the 12-yard line off the opening kickoff.
"It was cool," Kenny said of watching his brother's opening game tackle from the stands, where he was sitting with his family. "I was looking at it going, that is my brother right there. Being able to be in the stands and watch David play is a blessing. I wanted to root for my own team, but I'd be like, 'There is my brother right there.'"
Said David: "I was running down field and I want to make a play every game that I play in, that's my goal and that was it. It was the first of many more to come. I saw that gap and I saw him cut back and I went for his legs and I got him."
David's impact was only half of what the out-of-town guests had traveled to see, but after Kenny tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the Bengals' first preseason game, the family reunion's excitement had waned - slightly.
"We planned this big tailgate party, then when Kenny got hurt it took the thunder out of it a little bit," the brothers' father, David Irons Sr., said. "But we've still got to be there for David, sixth-round picks get cut in the NFL. But he is making a name for himself. We are still a family. We love them both and we want to see both of them reach their goals."
It may not have been the reunion the family, and brothers, envisioned when the schedule came out and the tickets were purchased. And it certainly wasn't the collision course the two predicted early in the preseason as they looked ahead to finally meeting as opponents after a life spent playing on the same team, first at Dacula, then at Auburn.
"That next day (I thought about not playing against my brother)," Kenny, a rookie running back, said of waking up after his knee injury. "Then when I got out of surgery I was laying in the hospital saying, 'Man everything I had planned, everything went down the drain.'"
If you ask David, a rookie cornerback, the plans aren't ruined, just put on hold.
"I knew eventually it was going to happen," David said of the brothers playing on separate teams. "We always brag about who is the best and (I would say) 'I knew one day I was going to be on a team and you were going to be on another and I am going to tackle you someday.' We are going to see who is the best head up and I was waiting for this day. Unfortunately he has to sit out a year, but I am going to get him next year."
Next season was always a certainty for Kenny, a second-round selection, but through training camp David has solidified his spot on the Falcons' roster, starting on special teams and moving up to second on the depth chart behind Pro Bowl corner DeAngelo Hall on Monday.
"I am pretty proud," David said. "Nobody probably thought I would be second on the depth chart behind DeAngelo and no one thought I would be doing this right now. I go out there each and every day and am taking it that I want to be one of the elite players in this league one day."
And David, the victim of an ACL tear who suffered through two surgeries, is now helping his younger brother work to return to the field where he was expected to make an impact.
"He's helping me," Kenny said. "I told him, 'David I don't know how you went through two knee surgeries.' There is just pain."
David's advice is simple.
"I told him just to keep his head up," he said. "Once you get through the surgery, the hard part is doing the rehab and getting the confidence back. They are going to get you back because you are in the right situation."
So the next time Irons meet on a football field they hope for some contact. But one thing is certain, either way a proud family will watch.
"It's one thing for one kid in the family to make it (to the NFL), but to have two brothers it's just amazing," David Irons Sr. said. "David and Kenny have both exceeded my expectations.
"For a couple of kids from Dacula, Georgia that is something special."