So much of the NFL draft is about differences -- about what separates one player from another -- as the choices get made.
The whole process is about breaking ties, picking one player over another. And then there’s Jacob and Cody Hollister, NFL hopefuls who hail from Bend, Oregon, who believe they are very much the same. That’s because they are believed to be the only set of twins in this year’s draft.
“We’ve always just been 'the twins,'" Cody Hollister said. “That’s what people called us, because were always together, on the same teams, playing the same sports. Jacob always had a little more hair going – I always had the buzz cut – but we have the same dream and the same belief we can do it."
Since the early 20th century a search through a variety of sources shows about a dozen sets of twins have played in the NFL with the Pounceys (Mike and Maurkice), McCourtys, (Devin and Jason) and Barbers (Tiki and Ronde) the most recent.
Jacob Hollister, a tight end from Wyoming who had 515 yards receiving at 16.1 yards per catch in 2016, is a slightly higher rated prospect than Cody, a wide receiver from Arkansas. Cody Hollister missed time this past season because of a fractured foot and then had surgery in early December to repair ligament damage in his big toe.
Jacob Hollister, at 6-foot-3 5/8-inches tall and 243 pounds, opened plenty of additional eyes at the Cowboys’ pro day with a 4.64 clocking in the 40-yard dash to go with a 36½-inch vertical jump. Cody Hollister went through a full workout on the Arkansas campus Monday in hopes of showing the scouts what he has to offer since being medically cleared.
“We’ve been working out, going through the whole process together [in Fayetteville, Ark.] so it’s been good to be back together," Jacob Hollister said. “We really have played all sports as long as I can remember. I don’t think since we were old enough to throw a ball that we’ve had a week where we weren’t playing a sport or working out to play a sport. So we just hope to keep that going.’’
Technically, though plenty of folks have had a fair share of trouble telling them apart over the years, they are fraternal twins, born 90 minutes or so apart. Jacob was first in the order.
And for most of their lives they were together -- always. Running, jumping, throwing, living life, separated usually only when in different classrooms at school.
“We only tried to pretend we were the other one time, I think, I mean everyone always asked us if we ever did that when we were younger, so one time we finally just said, ‘We’ll do it,'" Cody said. “So we wore the same clothes and he went to my class and I went to his class. They were right next to each other and within 10 minutes they were taking roll, we just couldn’t even keep a straight face so we had to swap it back right away."
But after a short stint at Nevada, then at Arizona Western Junior College, the two made a decision to chase football dreams in different places.
Both had an opportunity to go to Wyoming, but only Jacob went to Laramie. Cody, with an opportunity to play in the Southeastern Conference, chose Arkansas. And then a little reality set in.
“It was really hard when I first transitioned here at Arkansas," Cody Hollister said. “I was legit struggling the first six months. It was like a part of you is missing. I just felt a little depressed, because I think the longest we had been apart to that point was a couple days. But every day we text, talk. I don’t think we have any days when we don’t communicate and I don’t think we consciously think about doing it until somebody asks us."
“When we ended up making the decision to split up, it was hard," Jacob Hollister said. “I started making the trip over to Wyoming it was the hardest day of my life, maybe. But now looking back it’s been important to make our own experiences, spread out, become our own people."
And here they are on the doorstep of what they hope will be an NFL chance for one, or both, of them. They still see themselves as “the twins," but know the league’s talent evaluators probably do not agree.
There is also a little matter of the measuring tape in the pre-draft process. And that’s because Jacob was measured at 6-3 5/8 and Cody at 6-3 1/8.
No small matter for two brothers who “have competed at everything, every day, no matter what," as Jacob Hollister put it, that half inch is up for debate.
“I think they cut me short on the height," Cody said with a laugh. “Maybe Jacob has a different-sized head now. He’s going to hold that against me for years now and we are the exact same height. I’m convinced of it."
“He does get pretty upset at that number," Jacob said. “I think we are the exact same height, though."
They hope to get a call in the draft’s third day. They could also be chosen as undrafted rookies who get scooped up just minutes after the draft’s final selection is made Saturday. And both agree it’s more difficult wanting it to happen for the other than it is to wonder how it will go for themselves.
“We set goals and expect it to happen," Cody said. “That’s how we’ve always been and it’s always worked out for the best. Together we think we can always accomplish things, but watching each other’s games the last couple year, I think now I understand what our parents have gone through watching our games. Because this is like that."