AUGUSTA, Ga. - Casper and Jasper Brinkley remember watching NFL games on television before they ever got to the first grade.
The images that flickered across the screen sparked the dreams of the Thomson twins, who grew up playing midget football in the Thomson-McDuffie County Recreation and Leisure Services.
Next season, the Brinkleys hope they'll be the ones sparking dreams on national television.
"It's just like a dream come true," said Casper. "When we watched pro football on television when we were 5, we pretended to be some of those guys when we played midget football."
Casper now plays for the Carolina Panthers, while Jasper - a 2009 fifth-round draft choice - just signed his contract with the Minnesota Vikings.
"I'm living my dream," Jasper said. "I've always wanted to play professional football."
The former Thomson High School and University of South Carolina standouts were guests last Friday at Ann Taylor Auto Group on Washington Road in Augusta. There, the Brinkley brothers signed autographs and gave away t-shirts for dozens of youngsters and adults from across the Augusta area.
"It is great to meet both of these gentlemen," said Zane Christopher, of North Augusta, a big University of South Carolina fan. "They are class acts."
Others met the brothers, too, including Columbia County Sheriff's Department Deputies Chris Burnett and Nate Mercer.
"It was special getting a chance to talk with both Casper and Jasper," said Deputy Burnett, who had previously met Casper at a gas station in Columbia County and gotten his autograph. "They're very talented football players. It's a real rarity to see two brothers with as much talent as they've got. I wish both of them well in their NFL."
Both deputies had the Brinkley twins autograph miniature football helmets.
The next step for the twins is to attend minicamps with their respective teams.
Jasper said he's looking forward to possibly working with Brett Farve - an NFL legend - at the Minnesota minicamp. One of his most important questions for Farve: What is the secret to NFL longevity?
Shirley Cooper, of North Augusta, offered a piece of advice to the twins: "Don't forget where you came from."
Both players acknowledged that, saying they'd never forget the people or the places of their hometown. The duo plans to participate this Friday in the Danny Verdun-Wheeler Football Camp at Sweetwater Park in Thomson.
"It means a lot to us to be able to come back to Thomson and talk with kids about the importance of staying in school, getting an education and getting a good paying job," said Jasper.
"We hope that what we say to some of them might help change the way they think today," added Casper. "We want them to know that we care about them and haven't forgotten about them now that we're in the NFL."
The Brinkleys' stop at Ann Taylor was the handiwork of Terence Castleberry, Sr., the finance manager at the dealership and a former all-state linebacker at Thomson High School.
"It means a lot to see Casper and Jasper become rising stars in the NFL. I played at Thomson for Coach (Luther) Welsh," Mr. Castleberry said. "I learned so much from Coach Welsh (about football and life), and I am sure Jasper and Casper have too."
The majority of those who came to the car dealership to talk with Casper and Jasper were also fans of the twins when they played for the South Carolina Gamecocks.
One of their smallest fans to visit with them was six-year-old Cameron Rushton, a rising first grader at J.A. Maxwell Elementary School in Thomson.
"We've got lots of South Carolina fans in our family," said Cameron, who was accompanied by his mother, Lisa Rushton, a paraprofessional at the school and his uncle, Ron Odom, of North Augusta.