By Moses Leos III
Birthdays are always a special time for Lehman High senior Tyler Henderson and Hays High junior Cade Powell.
From parties involving laser tag as children, to having family dinners as young adults, Powell and Henderson, who share an Oct. 2 birth date, cherish the memories made with friends during those times.
But no matter where they celebrate, both Powell and Henderson, who are first cousins, can always count on having each other’s presence.
Even as they ready for their final Hays and Lehman football game together Friday, the bond that ties them extends to the gridiron and beyond.
From an early age, Henderson said the two grew up playing together and enjoyed their time hanging out, throwing the football around on weekends.
Powell said some of their earliest memories centered on going to each other’s house after school. Other activities included going on vacation to Sea World and Six Flags.
“We would always get our school work done, and then go play in the yard or build things together,” Powell said.
Their bond continued to be forged when they both participated in the North Hays Optimist football league in their youth. The two played on the same team from their days in Pop Warner to their 6th grade year.
Henderson, who played as a tight end and wide receiver at the time, remembered Powell playing as a running back for the NHO Gators.
He said the two always pushed each other to be better on the field, but they always maintained a friendly competition.
“We always want to do right by each other by playing together,” Henderson said. “We worked to get better.”
Having fun was the priority for the two, as it “wasn’t all about winning, even though we wanted to win a lot,” Henderson said. The ability to play with close friends whom they grew up with was also an attribute during their time with the Gators.
“We had a good time playing there,” Henderson said.
Powell recalled the chemistry the two had on the field.
“It was fun playing football on the field at the same time with your family members,” Powell said. “We just played together and had each other’s backs on the field.”
Their bond continued into the classroom, where both attended the same school until Henderson’s freshman year at Lehman.
Powell said it was “fun” seeing his cousin on a daily basis in elementary and middle school.
“In elementary school, we saw each other and smiled at each other,” Powell said. “We gave each other high fives and we helped each other with our homework.”
Even as life took them to different schools, the two continued to keep their bond.
While not being able to see his cousin every day had some effect, Henderson said the two still made time after school to socialize.
Activities such as playing online video games, which is an added source of competition for both, was one of their avenues to keep in touch. They still play against each other to this day, and both continue to visit each other over the weekends.
“That’s one of the main things, he’s at my house and I’m at his,” Henderson said.
It wasn’t until two years ago, when Powell reached the varsity level at Hays, that both players competed on the same field again.
For Powell, facing off against his cousin that first time was a “different” feeling.
But the Hays and Lehman rivalry isn’t something the two talk about, Henderson said. While they focus on helping their teams win, there isn’t any trash talk between them. Powell said they focus on helping their teams and don’t make it personal.
“It’s just another game for us. At the end of the day, he’s still my cousin and we still love each other,” Henderson said. “Of course, we compete and I’m not going to want to lose and he isn’t going to want to lose. But it’s all friendly.”
Their bond also extends to helping each other as they ready for the college life.
Henderson, who is committed to the Naval Academy and has gone through the recruiting process, said he offers Powell his experience. Advice comes in the form of how coaches recruit players and what they look for, along with what camps to attend.
“It’s going to help him get to the next level. When I did it, I didn’t have the knowledge I’m giving him,” Henderson said.
Even as they prepare for the next stage in life, the family ties that keep them together will continue.
For Henderson, traditions, such as the family tossing the pigskin around at Thanksgiving, will remain.
“That’s a given. Someone always has a football in the back of their car and they bring it out every year,” Henderson said.