TAMPA — If one has to run after practice or put in extra work in position drills, it's understood that his brother will patiently wait at the corner of the field, helmet in hand.
They are nearly inseparable that way, but that's how it always has been for Keith and Kevin McCaskill.
"They wait for each other," USF assistant football coach Kevin Patrick said this week as the Bulls prepared for Saturday's home game against Florida A&M. "They walk on the field together. They walk off the field together. It's just part of their biological makeup."
The fifth-year seniors, identical twins who turned 24 on Sunday, line up on opposite sides of the ball — Keith is a starting defensive tackle, Kevin a top backup at guard — but even then, they're separated only by the line of scrimmage.
"It's neat to see the respect they have for each other, the care and the bond they have," coach Skip Holtz said. "They spend so much time together, but they cherish their time together. When they're done here at the end of this year, who knows where their career paths will take them."
When Holtz attended memorial services last week with his players for Lee Roy Selmon, he couldn't help but think of the McCaskills, hearing the brotherly love with which Dewey Selmon spoke of his younger brother. As Dewey told it, Lee Roy was 11 months younger, but when Dewey left for his first day of kindergarten, their mother saw how much his brother missed him and sent Lee Roy along the next day.
That's how Kevin remembers his childhood in Tallahassee, with his brother always at his side. "Our mama told us, if one goes, the other had to go," he says. "You keep each other out of trouble that way. When you're a twin, you're used to it. I'm not saying we don't fuss and fight, but we get along pretty well."
The McCaskills were a year apart in school for much of their education because Keith was held back in fourth grade; Kevin's enrollment at USF was delayed a semester, however, allowing both to join the program in 2007. They've stayed together ever since. They share a car, an apartment, and will graduate together in December with the same major, interdisciplinary social sciences. And neither can imagine the past four years any other way.
"That's my best friend, my twin brother," said Keith, older by a minute and about 30 pounds lighter than his brother. "We feed off each other. I'm his energy; he's my energy. It seems like we always have each other's back. I know it's not very common for twin brothers to play at the same university, but it's good to always have him around."
Keith has a beard and Kevin perhaps a bigger smile, and there are other traits to distinguish them from each other. Kevin is laid back and quiet, you'll hear; Keith has the nonstop motor and is more outspoken.
"I'm the loudmouth, he's the calm one. I'm more blunt," Keith says, laughing. "In reality, he's the loudmouth. He just doesn't do it in public."
Playing FAMU is special for the McCaskills, who grew up near the Tallahassee campus and regularly attended games there.
"I was a diehard Rattler fan," said Keith, noting that their mother, Phyllis, is a FAMU graduate, and their uncle Jimmy played for the Rattlers, earning All-America honors as a center in 1969. The twins' older brother Nevin, a lineman who was among the Jets' final cuts two weeks ago, played collegiately at Hampton, where his coach was Joe Taylor, now at Florida A&M.
The brothers see the game from opposite perspectives, so they constantly have someone scouting them in practice and in games, seeing things they might not notice themselves.
"Sometimes after practice, he'll tell me, 'You should have done this. If I was blocking you, I'd have done this.' " Keith said. "I'll tell him the same way. We give each other pointers, especially after a game on Saturdays."
Kevin likes when he hears fellow Bulls say that their teammates are like brothers to them. For him and his twin, the two terms are inseparable.
"You always have somebody to talk to, always have somebody there," he said. "You have someone who's always going to push you, no matter how good you feel or how bad you feel. It's weird to think about going through it without having your brother next to you. You can't think of life without it."