Today, in advance of Georgia Tech’s bowl game against Kentucky, we’re sitting down with the Yellow Jackets identical twin brothers of the defensive backfield, the Austins.
That’s Lance on the left. And Lawrence on the right.
Or is it vice versa?
“They say my head is kind of longer than Lawrence’s,” said Lance, helping to speed up the identification process.
“I’ve got more of a melon-shaped, wider head,” Lawrence said.
So, it’s OK just to go ahead and call you Melon Head then? “Nah, they don’t call me Melon Head,” Lawrence said. “Most people just take a shot at it — there’s a one out of two chance of being right.”
That’s what Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof used to do. Just call out one name and see which one looked up.
“Then they got wise to me, then I made them start wearing their practice jerseys to the meeting rooms,” Roof said.
Why, you may ask, should we pay attention to two junior secondary players on a team where offense is primary — beside the fact that they formed from a single fertilized zygote?
Well, there is the fact that between them they have claimed the last three ACC defensive player of the week awards. Lance twice for his touchdown interception return against Virginia and a pivotal interception with 3:39 left in the Georgia game.
“(The interception of Georgia’s Jacob Eason) was a great play by me, me and the safety Corey Griffin,” smiled brother Lawrence. “We had a great disguise to make him think we were man-to-man so he tried to throw the out and it came right to Lance. All jokes aside — Lance made a great play.”
Lawrence, a nickel back, got his notice after twice intercepting Virginia Tech, and forcing a fumble.
“Commentator must have messed up, called out the wrong name,” brother Lance said. “We’re twins, you know.”
Might they never relinquish the award, pass it between them in perpetuity — or at least all through next season — like it was a family jewel?
“It’s up for anybody. If one of us wins it, it’s like the team winning it. Anybody who wins it, it’s all welcome,” Lawrence said.
“As long as it stays at Georgia Tech we’ll be fine with it,” Lance said.
For all the other characteristics that may be shared by twins, these two have in common a knack for the big, dramatic play. Like there exists some gene specific to fashioning such moments, a trait for doing something bold and brash on a football field.
That goes for their other twin brother from a different mother, their high school teammate back in Barnesville and roommate on the Flats, A-back Qua Searcy. It was Searcy who finished what Lance began with his interception in Athens, diving across the goal line with 30 seconds left in a brilliant flash of improvisation to secure Tech’s 28-27 victory.
Lance is most famous for the 78-yard touchdown return of a blocked field goal to beat Florida State in 2015. Forgotten is the fact that Lawrence had a very large game that night, too, recording six tackles and a tipped pass that was turned into an endzone interception.
“He already was a legend for the Florida State play,” Lawrence said of his twin. “Then the Georgia interception just elevated his legendary status. And Qua made a play that made him a legend. I guess I’m the only one from Barnesville who hasn’t made a legendary play. I got to get on that level.”
As you may have gathered, there is a good deal of barbed banter and busting of chops between the two twins. That’s part of the secret to their success, why at 5-9 or so they can survive on a football field and match up with receivers to whom they spot a half a torso or so.
In both their athletic life — never have they played on different teams, from tadpole on up — and their walking-around life, the Austins seem intent upon pushing each other. Measuring one against the other, as if when looking his brother each is looking at himself in a mirror, challenging himself to be better.
Roof, who himself is the father of a set of football-playing twins, recognizes the dynamic.
“They do feed off each other. They are very competitive with each other,” Roof said. “They had a pretty good streak going there (with the defensive awards). I texted their dad a message: ‘Can you guys have another kid?’”
“I think they got a really good attitude about football and life — they just enjoy it,” their head coach, Paul Johnson, said.
“If he one-ups me and comes back talking trash, it makes me want to go get (an interception),” Lawrence said. “We both talk a lot of trash to one another so nobody wants to be the one behind. We’re pushing each other whether it’s in the weight room, academics, on the field. If I get some weight (while lifting) and he doesn’t, he’s going to work even harder to get that weight. I want to catch more picks and get more tackles. Whatever it is, we’re trying to one-up each other.”
Of course they are aware they are tied with three interceptions this season (Lawrence leads the career total, 5-3). And Lawrence can quote you the numbers that his brother leads the ACC in passes defensed (15) and shares the conference lead in pass break-ups (12).
There is a great deal of disagreement over a multitude of issues.
Who’s taller? “In the morning I might be a little taller than him. He might catch up to me in the evening,” Lance said.
Who’s faster? In high school, when the track coach matched them, Lance won over a flat sprint course and Lawrence won in the hurdles.
Who’s smarter? Lawrence said his GPA is about two-tenths higher — both are business majors. “He’s gotten through some of the easy courses that I haven’t taken yet,” Lance said.
Not in dispute is which DB is the most adept at the speaking of the trash.
“Ask anyone on the team, they’ll say he talks too much,” Lawrence said of Lance. “He knows how to get up under people’s skin.”
“That takes a lot of work, a lot of practice,” smiled Lance.
And there is no debating the attitude, the edge that both bring to the field. It’s almost baked into them, like the butter in a biscuit.
As the last to come into this world, trailing Lawrence by a skinny minute, Lance also gets the last word on what drives the Austin twins.
“It’s just the competitiveness in the both of us. We’re eager to go out there. We’ve been overlooked our whole lives,” he said.
“We still got some more stuff to prove. Player of the week is good but we are trying to get more stuff, make more plays, get back to an Orange Bowl-type year, to an ACC championship.”
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