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Alabama’s Vinnie Sunseri and Notre Dame’s Prince Shembo aren’t letting the game get in the way of their friendship

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(USA Today Sports Images)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The Orange Bowl has done its best to keep Notre Dame and Alabama apart during the week leading up to the BCS national championship game.

The two teams are staying in different cities. There have been no joint meals, only one competition – a singing contest at the Miami Heat game – and they’ve rarely crossed paths during media appearances.

But two players have tried to bridge the gap and see each other – at least a little bit – before the game kicks off Monday night.

[Related: Nick Saban reportedly banned ESPN from players' hotel rooms]

Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri and Notre Dame linebacker Prince Shembo are best friends and have been since high school. The two are both from Charlotte, N.C., and though they played at different high schools, they started seeing each other a lot at the gym, on weekends and during summer football camps. They got to talking and realized they had a lot in common. They’ve stayed in touch with each other ever since.

But they never thought they’d actually meet on the gridiron.

Alabama and Notre Dame haven’t played each other since 1987, so there was never any concern that their friendship might be tested because of a football game.

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“It is tough, but it is a football game and during the game we’re going as hard as we can on the field because we are trying to win a football game, trying to win a national championship,” Sunseri said. “But after that, it’s kinda like, good game and good luck on all your success in the future.”

Keeping it cordial is something both guys said is a staple of their friendship. Neither guy is a big trash talker on the field, so neither has been doing much talking over the text messages either. And the one time they were able to meet - one night in South Beach - they hardly talked about the game at all.

Both guys said they actually hope the other has a great game regardless of the overall outcome.

“We honestly just think of it as another game, you guys are making it like real big,” Shembo said. “It is the championship game, but to us it’s just another football game.

[Related: Notre Dame-Alabama will likely be the most wagered BCS game]

“But yeah, we finally get to play against each other, which will be good, so we text and we’ll both say, ‘Have a great game, have a great game’ and just go out there and have some fun.”

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