TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- After two years at safety, this was the first time Karlos Williams played linebacker, and with a conference title hanging in the balance, his nerves were getting the better of him. An adrenaline rush had gotten him through the first few series, but sitting on the bench next to his brother, senior linebacker Vince Williams, Karlos confessed that the nerves now had his stomach in knots.
The elder brother shook his head in feigned disgust.
"If you throw up," Vince said, "you're going to have to go back and sit with the defensive backs."
The pep talk didn't help, and Karlos ducked behind the bench, doing his best to hide his vomiting from both fans and his brother.
The taunting that followed was merciless, but Vince didn't make good on his promise to deport his brother. Karlos stayed with the linebackers, and by the time the game ended, he'd recorded 11 tackles and an interception that effectively shut the door on a Georgia Tech comeback attempt.
In the postgame celebration, Vince beamed with pride. He'd spent two years tormenting his brother at Florida State, teasing and prodding and, just as they had as young boys, competing. But in the penultimate game they'll play together as Seminoles, little brother proved himself, and big brother offered nothing but praise.
"I hope everybody's seen the greatness that's in him and he's ready for his shot," Vince Williams said.
Vince's career is winding to a close. Karlos is just beginning to tap into his potential. That ACC championship game represented the first time the two spent significant snaps on the same field on game day. But as they prepare for their careers to diverge after the Discover Orange Bowl, the time they've spent together at Florida State has been a blessing.
"I think it's pretty special," Vince said. "A lot of people don't get that opportunity. It's been pretty cool to actually be on the field with your little brother."
That's an admittedly rare moment of emotion from either brother though. More often than not, the sibling rivalry involves sharp tongues and cutting barbs, refined by years of tormenting one another.
Yes, Vince has been a role model for his younger brother. And yes, Karlos' energy and enthusiasm have helped push his older brother, too. But ask Jimbo Fisher if having family on the field has been a boon for the two Seminoles, and he's not quite sure how to answer the question.
"They make fun of each other all the time," Fisher said. "It may be tougher."
It's been that way since they were kids. If the phone rang in the Williams house, both boys raced to see who could answer it first. If their mother was looking for the TV remote, there was a competition to determine who could produce it faster. Every chore concluded with a winner and a loser, and there was nothing worse than coming out on the wrong end of a challenge.
"You don't ever want to let Karlos get one up on you, because he's never going to let you live it down," Vince said.
Of course, as the older brother by three years, Vince usually had a leg up. By the time Karlos was in third or fourth grade, however, the odds started to even out.
Vince remembers a game of one-on-one in the driveway when he was 12 or 13 years old. An off-hand joke at his brother's expense had made Karlos mad. Suddenly, the younger brother was using a crossover dribble to blow by the older brother, and by the time it was over Vince narrowly escaped with a 1-point win. He shrugged off the stressful climax by explaining that he'd simply been taking it easy on Karlos, but he knew the tide had turned.
What Vince remembers about growing up with Karlos wasn't who won more battles, but how crushed his little brother would be by the defeats.
"He's been ridiculous his whole life," Vince said. "He never understood that he shouldn't be able to beat me, that I was older. He never got it."
Years later, a lot has changed. Karlos was a hot commodity on the recruiting trail, but his two seasons at Florida State have underscored just how much he had to learn. Winning isn't easy -- whether it's in a game of one-on-one against his older brother or finding playing time on a talented defense.
Throughout the struggles to acclimate, however, there's always been one constant he could rely upon.
"It was really great having Vince on the field being a coach, a general, a brother -- and aggravating at some points," Karlos said.
That ACC championship game was a perfect example.
Karlos had spent two years at safety, and his prep work for his new role against Georgia Tech amounted to a five-day crash course. He knew the basics, but the Yellow Jackets were a team that thrived on nuance.
Vince made things easier. The play came in from the sideline, and Karlos would turn to his brother. Vince would interpret -- here's the play, here are your keys, here's what you do. It was linebacking simplified, right down to the advice about not throwing up on the sideline.
Just seconds before that game-clinching interception, Vince had relayed the play to Karlos, told him which receiver to shadow, explained what to expect. Moments later, Karlos had a career-defining moment.
"I looked at Vince, and I said, 'What do I have to do?' " Karlos said. "They ran the same over route they ran two plays before, and I just stuck my hand up hoping I would touch the ball."
The performance was so impressive that Fisher will consider using Karlos at linebacker more in the future, but he's reluctant to ask his talented safety to add much weight. Vince is convinced it wouldn't be a problem.
"[Karlos] can really do anything," Vince said. "He's an outside linebacker that returned kickoff returns. The man is unbelievable."
Regardless of the role he'll have next season, Fisher predicts Karlos becomes a star.
Vince won't be surprised. He's known for a while just how talented his younger brother is. After all, he's had to hear about it from Karlos for years.
"He makes fun of me because I'm not as athletic as him," Vince said. "But I tell him, 'What God didn't give me in legs, he gave me in brains.' "