A wave of emotion crashed into Chidobe Awuzie as he sat in the Colorado locker room.

It was Oct. 25, 2014, and the Buffaloes had just suffered a heart-breaking 40-37 double overtime loss to UCLA in front of the home crowd at Folsom Field.

The defeat is not what brought tears to Awuzie's eyes, however. His thoughts immediately went to his friend, Tedric Thompson, a fellow safety who was taken off the field in an ambulance during the first overtime.

"One of the low points of my career was when Ted got hurt against UCLA," Awuzie said.

It was a moment, however, that defined a friendship and created a life-long connection between the two.

"The bond ain't going nowhere," Thompson said this week. "Our bond and our friendship goes past football.

"On and off the field, I love him like a brother. Blood can't make us closer."

On Saturday, Awuzie, Thompson and 25 other seniors will play their final game at Folsom Field, one of the final chapters in their sensational careers at CU.

They have both played integral roles in helping the Buffaloes (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12) ascend to No. 9 in the College Football Playoff rankings and in both national polls.

Awuzie and Thompson have been two of the best players to wear CU uniforms over the past decade, and they'll always be remembered by fans for helping to turn around a program that was in the dumps before this season.


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Awuzie is an exceptional, all-around defensive back who can play a variety of positions in the secondary. He's got more sacks than any other defensive back in CU history and has made countless impact plays during his career.

Thompson has been a rock at safety for four years, and only six players in CU history have more interceptions than the 11 he has collected during his career.

"Without them, I feel like it would be a different defense," linebacker and fellow senior Kenneth Olugbode said.

While part of the same 2013 recruiting class that brought Awuzie and Thompson to Boulder, Olugbode said he and others always looked up that duo.

"Coming in here as a freshman, Chido was the one who played the most out of all of us, and then Tedric played," Olugbode said. "Seeing those guys ahead of you that came in with you play is huge. It makes you want to go out there and play hard, as well, and get to that spot."

Quarterback Sefo Liufau — also a part of that 2013 class — has been the face of Colorado's rise to prominence this season, and rightfully so. But, on defense, it has always been Awuzie and Thompson setting the tone.

Awuzie came to CU from Oak Grove High School in San Jose, Calif., while Thompson came from Valencia High in Valencia, Calif.

They met during a recruiting visit to Boulder and Thompson immediately contacted Awuzie on Twitter, hoping the two of them would commit to the Buffs.

"It really brought us that bond that we were in this together," Awuzie said.

When they got on campus, Thompson could tell Awuzie was different. All the freshmen, including Awuzie, were getting used to the college life and enjoying parties and being on their own.

"But, you would see him grab his cleats and go to Farrand Field and work on drills," Thompson said.

Thompson was a hard worker, but at the time he didn't have that ability to push himself to work out alone.

"I would look at Chido and see how he pushed himself," Thompson said. "I would say I learned that from him; how to push myself."

Thompson also credits Awuzie for molding him into a true defensive back, and not just a talented athlete.

While Awuzie may have provided motivation for Thompson, it was clear to Awuzie that Thompson had the goods to succeed.

"He came from the same mindset I came from: being a dog and really loving football, but being about family and God," Awuzie said. "I think that's what really drew me to him."

As true freshmen in 2013, they were regular contributors on defense. By 2014, they were starters.

Then came the abrupt end to their sophomore seasons.

During the first overtime against UCLA, Thompson took a knee to the head as he tried to make a tackle. He stayed on the ground for several minutes and was eventually placed on a stretcher and taken off the field in an ambulance.

After the game, head coach Mike MacIntyre said, "When they took him off, he was moving, but he was really scared."

Thompson wound up missing the rest of the season with a concussion, but it was enough to make him consider giving up football.

"All injures are tough, but Tedric's injury was very emotional," MacIntyre said. "It was one of those surreal moments."

About 10 days later, Awuzie's season came to an end when he suffered a lacerated kidney in practice.

"We were both in the hospital," Thompson said. "That just made us closer."

Thompson said he was struck by how much Awuzie cared about Thompson's health during that time.

"He cared about my injury more than he cared about his," Thompson said.

In the weeks and months that followed, Thompson struggled with the thought of playing again.

"I didn't really know where my life was going and Chido sent me a long text," Thompson said. "Because of what Chido said, I feel like that's really why I'm here — God, my mom and Chido."

When both returned to the field for spring practices in 2015, they worked together to climb the depth chart again.

"We got demoted to third team and scout team at one point in spring ball going into our junior year," Awuzie said. "It was real hard for us, but we knew that if we kept battling and kept balling and kept our head down, we know that sometimes coaches do that to try to see how tough you are.

"It's definitely paid off for us and now we're both having great careers and trying to lead these young guys on."

To get to where they are now, all the Buffaloes have had to fight through adversity of some sort, but as MacIntyre looks back at that time for Awuzie and Thompson, he knows it was defining time for both. Especially Thompson.

"He took adversity and turned it into (a positive)," MacIntyre said. "If they can learn how to do that in life, they're going to go a long way."

As their CU careers wind down, Awuzie and Thompson take great pride in the strides the Buffs have made as a program during the last four seasons.

That loss to UCLA was part of a 2-10 season for CU. Now, the Buffs are on the verge of possibly going 10-2 and winning the Pac-12 South division.

"Everybody has come together, everybody has bought in, everybody is starting to play for each other," Awuzie said. "At the end of the day, we don't really know what this is right now; we don't know what it could be, because we still have a lot to play for."

For Awuzie and Thompson, however, they know that this is only a part of their journey. Both will have a shot to play in the National Football League next season, and they'll likely have to go their separate ways.

They'll never be too far apart, however. Many of the players on this team are close friends, but for Awuzie and Thompson, it's a tight bond that they know will last.

"No matter what, I'm always going to have that bond with him," Awuzie said. "If I don't see him for the next 10 years, he's still going to be like family to me.

"We understand that football is a thing, but brotherhood is for life."

Brian Howell: howellb@dailycamera.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.