SALT LAKE CITY — Samson Nacua loves to talk about the last time he faced his younger brother on the football field. As the Utah receiver enthusiastically recalls, his Timpview High team was trailing younger brother Puka Nacua’s Orem High squad when his coach put him in at quarterback. Things turned around after that, and the older Nacua bro, then a senior, and his Thunderbirds beat the Tigers and their freshman star.

“It was crazy. I remember after one of the plays I threw a touchdown pass, took my helmet off, ran to the middle of the field, looked at Puka on their side and started screaming,” Samson Nacua said. “And then the ref yelled at me to get off the field.”

Samson Nacua told the ref, “OK. My bad, my bad.” And he retreated to the T-Birds’ side of the field.

It was funny then, he admitted, and even funnier a few years later. Bonus: He threw two TD passes in Timpview’s 35-20 win over Orem.

Though Samson Nacua won’t get any snaps behind center when the ninth-ranked Utes visit Washington in an important Pac-12 showdown this Saturday afternoon at Husky Stadium, the junior plans on duplicating part of that high school scenario. He fully intends on loudly trash-talking his younger brother, Puka Nacua, a four-star recruit who’s getting playing time as a true freshman after leaving the Beehive State to play for Washington’s offensive mastermind coach, Chris Petersen.

“I’ll be watching the defense the whole game Saturday,” Samson Nacua said. “I’m going to be in Puka’s ear right when he’s next to our sideline. He’s going to hear me yelling at him.”

If things go really well for the older brother, he’ll also get a chance to pummel his sibling on special teams.

“I’m trying to tell him to go on kickoff because I’m going to start on kick return,” Samson Nacua said. His pitch: “Hey, bro. We can hit each other one time. Everyone wants to see it. Let’s just do it one time if we can.”

The elder Nacua is listed as being 6-foot-3, 200 pounds; younger brother is 6-1, 205. While Puka Nacua was a more highly touted recruit and has star receiver potential, Samson Nacua is known for being a physical receiver who loves to drop the hammer on opponents. He likes blocking so much that he jokingly said he’s contemplated asking the offensive line coach if he can play tackle. With that in mind, he’d love to smack pads with the kid he used to try to dunk on in his mom’s driveway.

“I haven’t seen him in a long time. I don’t know how much bigger he’s gotten,” Samson Nacua said when asked who’d get the best of a Nacua vs. Nacua collision. “But me. I’m going to win no matter what. Even if it’s a cheap shot, I’m going to win.”

There could be upward of 60 family members in attendance to watch this Battle of Brothers. A win for Washington (5-3 overall, 2-3 Pac-12) would be a bright spot in an up-and-down season for the Huskies. A win for the Utes (7-1, 4-1) would keep Utah in prime position to win the Pac-12 South Division and get another crack at the Rose Bowl. The Huskies denied the older Nacua’s squad of that opportunity last year by beating the U. in the conference championship game, 10-3.

In other words, this game has more on the line than simple-but-oh-so-important family bragging rights.

“All my family from Vegas, all my family from Cali, all my family from Utah have been hitting me up. I guess I have some family in Washington, too,” Samson Nacua said. “I was like, ‘Oh my goodness. Mom, I don’t know if I can get everyone tickets.’ It’s a lot.”

Samson Nacua knows there will be split loyalties and bittersweet feelings during Saturday’s game, just as there was for the Orem-Timpview clash and the time his older brothers, former BYU players Kai and Isaiah Nacua, played each other in high school for the Nevada state championship in 2012 before their mom, Penina, moved her seven kids to Utah from Las Vegas. Kai Nacua played for Liberty, while Isaiah Nacua was on Bishop Gorman’s team. Samson Nacua said he wore a pink cape and painted his face half blue and half red to try to support both brothers, but he was more partial to Kai’s Liberty team, which lost.

“I remember I was sad,” he said, “but I was still happy.”

Samson Nacua was reminded this past weekend that crimson isn’t his family’s only favorite (current) color. They’re also loyal to Husky purple. He jokingly told a relative he needs to get him more Ute paraphernalia after noticing Washington colors during a recent visit home.

“I hope they’re mostly wearing red (Saturday), though,” he said. “I don’t want to see no purple.”

Both of the Nacua receivers have had their moments this season. Samson Nacua hauled in touchdown receptions against Washington State and Oregon State. Coincidentally, Puka Nacua also has two touchdown catches this season.

Samson Nacua said he’s not surprised that his little brother is already contributing. The younger brother played on his fifth-grade team when Puka Nacua was only in the second grade and held his own against the older boys. Samson Nacua said his brother had a habit of “destroying guys” when their late father, Lionel, eventually had him play against kids his own age.

Washington wide receiver Puka Nacua in action against Hawaii during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Seattle. | AP

“To see him do it on a bigger stage is just cool,” Samson Nacua said. “And to share the last name with him is really cool.”

Though Samson Nacua said Utah “fit me perfect,” he didn’t try to pressure his brother too much to move up from Utah County and join forces with him in SLC. Puka Nacua, the Deseret News’ Mr. Football in 2018, originally committed to USC before reopening his recruitment.

“I tried my best,” Samson Nacua said, “but at end of the day I would always tell him, ‘I’d love to play with you. It’d be really cool to be a hometown hero with you, but whatever you feel is home for you, that’s where you’ve got to go.’”

Samson Nacua began the good-spirited ribbing earlier this week. Though he shut his phone off a couple of months before fall camp commenced in August — “just trying to focus,” he said — Samson Nacua borrowed Ute teammate Julian Blackmon’s phone to call his younger brother earlier this week. He asked his little bro how he was feeling and how things were going for him and the Huskies. And, of course, he offered some brotherly advice.

“You guys had a bye week. You got to rest up. I hope you’re ready to play the best defense in the nation probably right now,” Samson Nacua told his brother.

“Man, I’m always ready,” Puka Nacua told him.

“OK, man,” Samson Nacua responded. “We’ll see.”

Samson Nacua has no doubt their father will be among the fans watching to see how this game — this episode of family football feud — plays out. Their dad died unexpectedly seven years ago at age 45 of complications from diabetes.

“I know he’s smiling,” Samson Nacua said of his dad. “I know he got to see my two brothers play against each other. Now he gets to see me and Puka play against each other in college, at a collegiate level. I know he couldn’t be more proud of us. He’s probably just screaming with his hands up, just shouting, ‘Let’s go! Let’s go!’”

Just like the idea of hitting and beating his brother in a nationally televised football game, that thought brings a smile to Samson Nacua’s face.

“I’m happy right now,” he said.

He hopes to be even happier after Saturday’s game. Heaven knows he’s been looking forward to it ever since Puka Nacua announced on live TV (Ch. 5’s SportsBeat Sunday) that he was headed to Washington.

“Oh yeah. Once he committed, I got it marked down in my head when we were going to play,” Samson Nacua said. “This week, for sure, I’m going to be going crazy in practices making sure everyone is hyped and everyone is ready to play.”