Thanksgiving is traditionally a time in which families gather around the dinner table and remind each other of how thankful they are for the blessings they have.
It’s no different with the Dorn family.
Only instead of indulging in just the usual fare of turkey, stuffing and all the other trimmings, the menu at their house these days also includes a healthy serving of trash talk. That’s because the family’s athletic allegiances and emotions are evenly split between two heated college rivals.
Older brother Torin plays basketball at NC State, while sibling Myles is a defensive back for the North Carolina football team.
Although they’re as close as most brothers are, their relationship will be put to the test this week as the Tar Heels get ready to play the Wolfpack in their annual rivalry football game at Kenan Stadium.
“It’s actually fun,” said Torin, who transferred to State in 2015 after spending a season at Charlotte. “It’s not really about the schools or the rivalry with me and Myles. That’s my brother. Anytime he’s successful, I feel like I’m successful. I’d root for him no matter where he’s at.”
That doesn’t mean the two are immune from at least a little sibling rivalry, especially around this time of year.
“Our conversations are super competitive,” Torin said. “It doesn’t have to be Thanksgiving, it could be any day. It’s not a subject we shy away from.”
As loyal as the brothers are to their respective alma maters, the tension between them is eased somewhat by the fact they play different sports.
That makes it much less awkward for Torin to attend Saturday’s game and root for Myles to play well, and vice versa during basketball season, when he knows he won’t have to go against him head-to-head.
It also helps both feel comfortable enough to venture into enemy territory when they work out together during the summer.
“Sometimes he’ll come down here and he’ll have on his NC State gear, but we’ll work out together on this field or in the gym,” Myles said after a practice at Kenan Stadium. “Then I’ll go up there and I’ll be in Carolina gear at their basketball facility. It’s different, but we’ve gotten used to it.”
Their decisions to go in different athletic directions came about organically rather than by design.
They were both multisport stars at Vance High School in Charlotte. But at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, Torin’s size and a versatility that allows him to play all five positions on the floor naturally steered him toward basketball.
Myles, who is 3 inches shorter than his brother, drew more attention from the college scouts as a wide receiver and defensive back, prompting him to follow his father’s footsteps onto the football field.
While Torin insists that he’s better at football than his brother is at basketball, a claim Myles is quick to refute, their dad, Torin Dorn Sr. is confident that both made the right decisions when it came to choosing their preferred sport.
“I think Myles could play basketball a little better than Torin could play football,” said Dorn Sr., a standout running back and cornerback at UNC who went on to play six seasons in the NFL. “We called Torin ‘Mr. Touchdown’ because we’d call him onto the field when we needed a certain pass caught. He’d run his route, catch it and get back off the field.
“As they grew, both found their niche, and that’s where they decided to hang their hat. They knew which was going to get them the degree and the opportunity to go to school.”
That opportunity made it easier for Dorn Sr. to overlook his oldest son and namesake’s decision to attend his alma mater’s bitter rival.
“The best deal for him was NC State,” Dorn Sr. said, adding that his acceptance of that reality came with just one stipulation. “I told him straight up that I wasn’t going to wear Wolfpack stuff. If it doesn’t say ‘State,’ I’ll wear the colors because I look good in red.”
State became an even better fit for Torin Jr. once Kevin Keatts replaced Mark Gottfried as coach last season. Now a senior captain, he is thriving in Keatts’ up-tempo, positionless style while leading the Wolfpack in both scoring and rebounding at 19.5 points and 8.0 boards per game.
“When Coach Keatts first got hired, I was really excited about the style of play,” Torin Jr. said. “This year, being able to play even faster is really good. I think it will bode well for my game and my skill set.”
Torin Jr. tried his best to get his sibling to follow him to State. But even though Myles said he has always looked up to his big brother and tried to be just like him, his lifelong allegiance to UNC won out in the end.
A junior safety for the Tar Heels, he’s tied for the team lead with two interceptions and is third in tackles with 50 despite missing three games because of injury. His individual success, however, has been tempered by UNC’s 2-8 record heading into its final game.
“I try to give him some feedback from my time at Carolina, since when I was there we went through a 1-10 season,” Torin Sr. said. “It’s all about perspective and how you look at it. He’s having a rough time with the losses, but he’s staying upbeat and treating every game as winnable and looking at the next game as the first game.”
He shouldn’t have any difficulty getting motivated Saturday, especially with bragging rights on the line once the games have been played and the entire family gets together for a belated Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday.
Not that the result will cause any hard feelings, no matter who wins.
“The school stuff is going to fade away,” Torin Jr. said. “But the family is always going to be there.”