Their connections to Edward Jones Dome differ significantly, but the ties Christian Kirksey and Pierre Desir carry into Sunday's game are too strong for them to simply dismiss it as just another road game.
Kirksey, Cleveland's second-year linebacker, grew up in St. Louis and played his high school football at Hazelwood East. As a junior, Kirksey was a do-it-all athlete who helped his team win a state championship inside the Rams' home stadium. One of his coaches was former Rams linebacker Mike Jones, who made the game-saving tackle in Super Bowl XXXIV.
"When your home team is in the Super Bowl, it amps it up a lot," Kirksey said. "I just remember when I finally got to high school, he was my coach and he told us stories about the game and showed us his ring. It was pretty cool."
Desir, who was born in Haiti and immigrated to the United States at a young age, played outside of the city in Cottleville. His high school team never made it to the state championships, but Desir often made the 45-minute trek to the city to work the concession stands on Rams game days.
The job was one of many Desir, a father of three, held on a trek to the NFL that included stops at Washburn University in Kansas and Lindenwood University, a Division II school where Desir shined enough to land with the Browns as a 2014 fourth-round selection.
Asked if he thought he'd ever play a game in front of his friends and family in St. Louis, Desir smiled.
"No, not really," Desir said. "I was thinking about selling all of those nachos and hot dogs at the time.
"I definitely wanted to play there. I didn't get the opportunity in high school, and it's a great feeling to be able to go back and play in your hometown."
Both of the second-year players are in line to be busy Sunday in front of a boatload of friends and family.
Kirksey, who jokingly estimated he'll have an entire section of friends and family, has been a regular alongside Karlos Dansby at inside linebacker and has only seen his playing time increase since Craig Robertson went down with an ankle injury. If Joe Haden is unable to play Sunday, Desir, who played every single snap last week against the Broncos, could make his third start in the last four games.
Desir said he had about 10-15 tickets he was able to distribute to friends and family, but many of them had already purchased seats by the time he was able to pass them out. Lindenwood staff and students had the opportunity to purchase tickets at a discounted price and receive a food voucher to watch one of their most famous alums.
"It's always good to play in front of your friends and family, but I know I still have a job to do," Desir said. "We'll celebrate after, but it is good to be back in my hometown and playing in front of my friends and family."