The Davis brothers keep insisting they’re ready to be apart.
But as identical twins who had the same discipline in track and field (shot put) and played the same position in football (defensive line), they have told anyone who’d listen that they’re ready to go their own ways, make their own names and build their own identities.
So then, when Khalil was drafted with the No. 194 overall pick in the sixth round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in April’s NFL draft, why did he remain sitting quietly on the family couch in Blue Springs, Missouri? Where was the jumping around and outsized elation fitting for a 6-foot-1, 308-pound lineman picked to be five-time Pro Bowler Ndamakong Suh’s understudy?
“Oh, Khalil was happy, but not completely,” said Tracy, the twins’ mother. “He couldn’t be as happy if his brother wasn’t drafted.”
Thankfully, 38 picks later at No. 232 overall, the Pittsburgh Steelers saved the day. Head coach Mike Tomlin called Carlos, and Khalil was finally able to whoop how he wanted to. Because, really, separate identities are all good and fine as long as both identities include: player, National Football League.
The Davises now become the fifth set of twins in the NFL. The Pounceys (the Steelers‘ Maurkice and Chargers‘ Mike) have the most Pro Bowls. The McCourtys (Devin and Jason, both starters in the Patriots‘ defensive backfield) have the most Super Bowl rings. The Griffins (Shaquill and Shaquem) are teammates and defensive players for the Seattle Seahawks, and the Hollisters (the Seahawks‘ Jacob and Titans‘ Cody) were up until last year teammates, too, in New England.
“I guess my husband and I will have to be in separate cities on Sundays,” Tracy said.
Khalil is a versatile player who played the majority of his snaps at defensive end in his final season at Nebraska, and who the Bucs see as a three-technique lineman in their 3-4 defense. Carlos is incredibly strong and equally as athletic, and the Steelers hope he can help them at nose tackle, a spot where they don’t have a lot of depth.
Both players join fierce defenses: The Bucs had the NFL’s best run defense last season and tied for seventh in sacks (47) last season, while the Steelers led all defenses in both sacks (54) and turnovers (38). Even though they each join established units, Khalil and Carols see, and have been told, there is opportunity for them.
Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward, one of the team’s captains, welcomed Carlos immediately with a text, while Tampa’s Suh, a former Cornhusker himself, found Khalil’s Instagram account and direct messaged him within five minutes of his selection. Considering that when Khalil was told the Bucs were drafting him, the first thing he thought was, “Man, I get to play with Suh,” that was almost as big a high as the drafting itself. (Asked, “You didn’t think Tom Brady first?” Khalil chuckled and then sheepishly said, “He came second. A quick second.”)
Both brothers are obviously antsy to meet their new teammates and be on their new — and separate — ways. Right now, they’re doing daily video calls with their position coaches — from different corners of the Davis house — and Steelers defensive line coach Karl Dunbar apparently and regularly makes sure that Khalil is nowhere near Carlos for their install sessions.
“His coach likes to talk trash,” Khalil said, teasingly.
The brothers do talk concepts together and they work out together every day. Carlos is an inch taller, five pounds heavier and five minutes older. Khalil is quieter and a better pass rusher. And for all their competitiveness, neither hesitates when asked what will distinguish the other at this next level.
“Khalil is relentless in his pursuit of the ball,” Carlos said.
“Carlos is very good against the run,” Khalil said.
“Khalil is quicker than me,” Carlos said.
“Carlos is meaner,” Khalil said.
“Oh, yes,” Tracy chimed in. “Khalil is the nicer one.”
Khalil is the unashamed “baby” of the family, trading on the extra five minutes he took to come out of the womb. However, they did meet their parents, Tracy and Carl, at the exact same moment.
The Davises were already parents to daughters Monique and Cymone when they decided they wanted to adopt. Offered a newborn girl first, Carl said he’d really prefer a son. Their caseworker called back and asked: What about 9-month-old twin sons? The Davises asked to meet the boys first and on the day the caseworker pulled up to their home, before she could open both car doors, there was a Davis daughter at each one, peering in the window, at one twin apiece.
“Right then, I said, ‘OK, that’s it. It’s a done deal,’ ” Tracy recalled.
The entire family has been inseparable since. The Carl and Tracy, Carlos and Khalil, and Cymone all work out of the family home, and Monique is a regular visitor. For now, as the Davis brothers wait for NFL facilities to reopen, they’re going fishing — and doing their fair share of bickering. (While on this phone call, Carlos saw Khalil dipping into a box of hats sent to him and interrupted himself to tell Khalil the hats were his. Khalil said something back, Carlos complained loudly and Monique was heard, sighing and saying, “There’s six hats in there. Y’all share.”)
“Yeah, it’s time to go do our own thing,” Carlos said.
With the caveat, of course, that their own thing means: both succeeding in the NFL.
Follow Aditi Kinkhabwala on Twitter @AKinhabwala.