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Ma'ake Kemoeatu ends NFL career to donate kidney to his brother ex-Steelers OG Chris Kemoeatu

Ex-Steelers guard Chris Kemoeatu's career ended after the 2011 season while the career of his older brother, DL Ma'ake Kemoeatu, continued. Continued, that is, until Chris needed his help.

Gregory Shamus

They never played against each other in the NFL, but odds are good the brothers Kemoeatu, Chris and Ma'ake, have hit each other more often than anyone else in their lives.

The eldest brother of the seven-sibling Kemoeatu family, Ma'ake's career ran mostly parallel with Chris's, the Steelers starting guard from 2008-11. Ma'ake went from Carolina to Washington and ended his career with the Ravens, one year after Chris exited the game.

It's possible Ma'ake's career ended because of Chris as well. Not due to a hit or an injury but, rather, a brother in need of his help.

Ma'ake donated his kidney to his ailing younger brother earlier this week at the University of Maryland Medical Center, where, previously, Chris had undergone a coronary-bypass surgery.

Chris's career was perhaps cut short, and the kidney needed, due to a medical condition he's had since childhood. Big and quick early in his career, Chris's play had deteriorated by the end of his time with the Steelers, perhaps due to this ailment. Ma'ake had been a key contributor to the Ravens' Super Bowl championship team in 2012, just one year after losing 78 pounds to return to football after being cut by the Redskins.

Ma'ake, like Chris, played at the University of Utah, but unlike Chris, he was not drafted despite having been an All-Conference, honorable-mention player at Utah. It's possible his stock slipped a bit due to the fact he was suspended from the team's final game of the 2002 season, the Las Vegas Bowl against USC.

Giving is clearly in his nature. His suspension was due to the fact he used scholarship money to purchase two math books in an effort to help a third Kemoeatu brother, Tevita, with a class. His intentions were to study from the books and help tutor his younger brother who was a sophomore at the time.

Setting aside the sheer ridiculousness of a student-athlete losing eligibility because he purchased academic literature, Ma'ake would eventually give even more of himself - his kidney - to brother Chris, one of the few pairs of brothers in NFL history to each win a Super Bowl on different teams (Chris with the Steelers in 2006 and 2009, and Ma'ake with the Ravens in 2013).

Ma'ake ended his collegiate career helping out one brother, and ended any possibility of making a second comeback to the NFL by helping out the other. In the current period full of scandal and allegations in the NFL, Ma'ake stands out as a true hero, a guy committed to doing the right thing despite the negative ramifications it has on his own life. Neither player can boast Hall of Fame ability, but the values Ma'ake represents are inherently joined with the pure game of football. Sacrificing oneself for the sake of a teammate, working to help the team in whatever way is necessary and focusing on the long-term goal despite short-term setbacks.

Here's wishing all the best to the entire Kemoeatu family, and may we all remember, even considering the self-inflicted wounds caused by those of lesser character in the NFL, there are also examples of sacrifice and selflessness connected with this game and with this sport.