As the hours ticked by and more and more picks popped up on the National Football League draft board, Jasper Brinkley didn't lose his cool.
Anchored on the leather loveseat and surrounded by family in his parents' living room near Thomson, he twirled the No. 52 locket that hung from a chain around his neck.
Fourteen picks into the fifth round and shortly before 3p.m. Sunday, the former Thomson Bulldog and South Carolina Gamecock became a Minnesota Viking.
And a childhood dream stood fulfilled.
"It feels pretty good to know that I'm going to be playing in the NFL," said the 6-2, 260-lbs. linebacker during an interview with The McDuffie Mirror just minutes after he was selected by the Vikings. "This is something I've dreamed about since I was a boy."
Jasper and his twin brother, Casper, began a love affair with football when they played on youth teams with the Thomson-McDuffie Recreation and Leisure Services. As they got older, they played at Thomson Middle and later Thomson High School, where the two became prep stars.
The linebacker duo helped the Thomson Bulldogs capture the 2002 Class AAAA football championship.
The twins then played football together at Georgia Military College before they transferred to South Carolina.
Next season, they may play football on the biggest stage of all. Casper is currently on the roster of the Carolina Panthers, a team that drafted the Brinkley's close friend and Gamecock teammate Captain Munnerlyn.
"I'm real excited for my brother," said Casper. "He's waited a long time for this special day."
On Sunday, Jasper Brinkley, 23, said his emotions were running as high as they had ever run in his life.
"I'm living out a dream," he said. "It feels great, it really does."
Shortly after learning that the Vikings had selected him, he received several telephone calls from Minnesota coaches and his agent - all offering their congratulations.
"I'm very excited about getting this opportunity," said Jasper.
For Casper, Sunday's draft provided the opportunity to mentor his brother through the stressful process. A year ago, it was Casper who spent the draft weekend awaiting his fate. And while he wasn't drafted, he later signed on with the Carolina Panthers and was assigned to the team's practice squad.
That experience allowed him to pass on a valuable lesson to Jasper.
"You never know with the draft how it's going to go, so you have to be real patient," said Casper.
They now join the company of Ray Guy, Eddie Lee Ivery, Chris Mohr and, most recently, Danny Verdun-Wheeler and Willie Williams - all of whom hail from Thomson, and all of whom played in the NFL.
The twins' parents, Charles and Joyce Brinkley, said they are happy for their sons.
"We're all very excited about our sons playing in the NFL," said Mrs. Brinkley.
Mr. Brinkley said one of the hardest things to watch in recent years was his sons finally split up on the playing field following Jasper's 2007 knee injury. Jasper took a medical redshirt for his senior season and played his final game as a Gamecock this year as his brother worked in the NFL.
"They had always been together," said the elder Brinkley. "It was just tough on me, seeing my sons split up for the first time."
1) brinkley1 -- cutline: Thomson's Jasper Brinkley watches the 2009 NFL draft unfold from the comfort of a couch in his parents' living room in Thomson. Family members - including his twin brother, Casper, a member of the Carolina Panther's roster - gathered Saturday and Sunday. Jasper Brinkley was selected in the fifth round by the Minnesota Vikings.
- Web posted on Thursday, April 30, 2009