Twins Who Have Played in the National Football League
(essay last updated May 15, 2006) Perhaps more so than any other major professional sporting organization, the National Football League is rich in family tradition. From its earliest beginnings in the 1920’s to today, some of the greatest players in the league have come from the same bloodlines.
Some of the famous families include the Bahr, Browner, Manning, Grammatica, Ismael, Karras, Matthews, Oates, Selmon and Zendejas brothers. All of these families are part of a long list of over 200 sets of two-or-more brothers who both played in the NFL. When it comes to twins playing in the NFL, however, the list is much more selective.
There have been just 10 sets of twins in NFL history where both twins played in the league. The selective list below doesn’t include legends such as John Elway or Jim Thorpe, who were both part of a male-female set of twins. Nor would it include twins who excelled in college but only one of the two ended up playing professional ball (Marlin and Mike McKeever are a good example here – Marlin had a long, distinguished NFL career but his brother’s pro career was cut short by a series of tragic injuries). It is also important to note that one group of brothers who have frequently been part of famous twins lists – Gene and Marv Upshaw – are in fact brothers separated by a year.
The very first set of twins to both play in the NFL remain the only duo to play together on the same team. Gene and Tom Golsen were NFL pioneers, playing together on the long-defunct Louisville Colonels team in 1926. Gene was a fullback and tailback, while Tom was a guard. The Louisville team had one of the shortest life spans in NFL history, having played just four games total in 1926 before going under – the NFL began in 1920 and the first decade of the league saw a lot of teams come and go.
It would be another two decades before the NFL would see another set of twins. In 1948, Hal and Herb Shoener began their brief NFL careers. Hal played for the San Francisco 49ers from 1948-1950 as an end (San Francisco was in the AAFC in 1948 and 1949 and joined the NFL in 1950). Herb also was a defensive end, playing for the Redskins in 1948 and 1949.
Next were the Saul twins who both were offensive linemen from 1970-1981. Rich Saul played all 12 of his seasons with the Los Angeles Rams. Ron Saul played for the Houston Oilers from 1970-1975, and the Washington Redskins from 1976-1981. They also had an older brother named Bill who was a linebacker from 1962-1970 for four different teams.
The Bell twins are perhaps the most infamous pair of twins on the list. Mark Bell was a defensive end for Seattle from 1979-1982, and with Baltimore/Indianapolis in 1983 and 1984. Mike Bell was a defensive end with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1979-1985 and then again from 1987-1991. But both Bells were sent to prison in 1985 for cocaine possession, causing Mike to be suspended from the league in 1986.
Phil and Paul Tabor were both linemen but on different sides of the ball. Phil was a defensive lineman with the New York Giants for four seasons (1979-1982). Paul played just one season in the league, seeing some time both at center and at guard with the Chicago Bears in 1980.
The twins who played the longest cumulative time in the NFL were Raleigh and Reggie McKenzie. Raleigh was an offensive lineman (guard and center) for a twins-record 15 seasons. Most of that time was with the Washington Redskins (1985-1994), but he also saw action with Philadelphia (1995-1996), San Diego (1997-1998) and Green Bay (1999). He also was the first twin to be a part of a Super Bowl-winning NFL team, winning rings with Washington following the 1987 and 1991 seasons. Reggie was a linebacker with the Los Angeles Raiders from 1985-1988, and again in 1992 with the San Francisco 49ers.
The Cash twins were both tight ends, playing for five different teams from 1991-1996. Keith Cash was with Pittsburgh in 1991 and Kansas City from 1992-1996. Kerry Cash played for Indianapolis (1991-1994), Oakland (1995) and Chicago (1996).
The McDonald Twins both were linebackers. Devon McDonald played for Indianapolis from 1993-1995 (where he was a teammate of fellow twin Kerry Cash), and Arizona in 1996. Ricardo McDonald was with the Cincinnati Bengals (1992-1997) and the Chicago Bears (1998-1999).
Probably the best known NFL twins are the only set who are still playing in the league. Tiki Barber is a running back with the New York Giants (1997-present), while Ronde Barber is a defensive back with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1997-present). Tiki Barber had his best professional season in 2005 with 1860 yards rushing, 2nd in the NFL.
The final set of twins are made up of a rarity on this list, brothers who played their collegiate ball at different schools. Kato Serwanga played collegiately at UCLA, and was a cornerback in the NFL with New England (1998-2000) and Washington (2001). Wasswa Serwanga went to the University of California, and was a defensive back with San Francisco in 1999 and Minnesota in 2000.
Unlike other sports (such as baseball where the list of twin athletes seems to be much shorter), the list of NFL twins should continue to grow in the future years. It’s very common to see twins excel in college football so as more sets of twins emerge in the NFL, we’ll add to this list. A few more twins could make this list in 2006 based on the NFL Draft. Daniel Bullocks, a safety out of Nebraska, was selected in the 2nd round by the Detroit Lions. He hopes to join his twin brother, Josh, who played in all 16 games as a rookie with the New Orleans Saints in 2006 as a defensive back. Josh also went to Nebraska but didn’t redshirt like Daniel so that’s why their NFL careers began or will begin a year after each other. Also, Paul and Pat McQuistan, offensive lineman who played collegiately together at Weber State, were drafted in the 2006 Draft by Oakland (3rd round) and Dallas (7th round), respectively. And Trevis and Kevis Coley were signed as undrafted free agents by the New York Giants after neither twin brother was drafted after the two defensive standouts ended their collegiate careers at UAB.
If we have forgotten or overlooked any twins, please let us know by sending us an email. But please remember, we’re only interested in twins where both brothers played in at least one National Football League game.