TAMPA — They talk and text every day, but this week the exchanges are a little more salty than saccharine.
Zyon and Tristin McCollum are identical twins, both defensive backs, with matching desires of playing in the NFL.
But nothing has prepared them for this week, when their teams will meet on “Monday Night Football.”
“The phone calls are absolutely hilarious, and I’m sure the banter around his locker room is the same as mine,” Bucs cornerback Zyon McCollum said Monday. “Twins are going to reunite, and it’s a big, big night for the McCollum family, for sure. Prime time. You wouldn’t want any better day.”
Zyon is coming off his first NFL start, pressed into duty for Sunday’s 27-17 win over the Bears with the toe injury to cornerback Carlton Davis. He played well, recording three tackles, two unassisted, while allowing only two receptions on four targets.
Tristin is a safety on the Eagles practice squad, having earned that opportunity with an outstanding training camp and preseason.
As soon as the Bucs beat the Bears, Tristin called his brother with a warning.
“I was a fan of Zyon’s in that game they just played, but right after the Bears game was over, man, I really started jabbing at him,” Tristin said. “At the end of the day, we’re rooting for each other. But I told him, I know he put a lot of preparation into last week, but he better prepare a little bit more. I told him, ‘You’d better be ready, because we’ve got some dudes.’”
The Eagles are 2-0 with wins over the Patriots (25-20) and Vikings (34-28). The defending NFC champions are loaded with talent on both sides of the football and led by quarterback Jalen Hurts. The defense has led the way for the Bucs (2-0) so far this season, forcing five turnovers in wins over the Vikings and Bears.
A year ago, after Tristin went undrafted but signed with the Texans, Zyon, a fifth-round pick by the Bucs, struggled as well. He was injured at a joint practice with the Titans and missed a good portion of the preseason. When he was activated, he missed some tackles.
“I’ve felt like I’m on top of the world and nothing can slow me down, and then there’s times when you go into those pits and you’re wondering, like, everything just turns into water and it’s just your grasp, it just slips right through,” Zyon said. “So for me, it’s just trying to find, you know, consistency and all of that.”
Still, when Davis went down, coach Todd Bowles didn’t hesitate to name Zyon the starter. Zyon said a good week of preparation allowed him to get comfortable with the game plan so he could do less thinking on the field and focus strictly on playing.
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
“I feel absolutely amazing confidence-wise, especially going in,” he said. “I knew this was a big game for me, (so) I just put pressure on myself to say, your career can go one of two ways, and this game is a really defining moment for me, especially, being the first start of my second year.
“So, I just took it and I ran with it. Me, athletically, I always think of myself as bigger, stronger, and faster than any receiver that I’ll ever line up against, and this was just truly believing that. Just knowing at the end of the day, it’s me versus them, and I’m going to bet on myself every time.”
Zyon and Tristin are both incredibly athletically gifted. They likely get a little part of that from their father, former Chicago Bulls basketball player Corey Carr.
Zyon, 6-feet-3, 202 pounds, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds, had a 39.5″ vertical leap (to rank second at his position), and his 11-foot broad jump was first among corners at the NFL scouting combine. Tristin wasn’t invited, but he showed out at his pro day by running the 40 in 4.48 seconds.
“It’s absolutely incredible,” Zyon said. “I mean, this is the thing that we were dreaming of when we were, you know, in elementary school and middle school and we both want to play football. And growing up, our favorite team was the Eagles, and him having the chance to play for the Eagles, us going head-to-head.”
Growing up in Galveston, Texas, it was mostly Zyon, Tristin and their mother, Tisha McCollum, a teacher.
“She instilled a lot of values in us that caused us to kind of learn and teach ourselves when I was growing up,” Zyon said. “You know, we just want to return the favor to her. And really just, you know, let her know how much it really means to us, for her to just always be there for us unconditionally.”
Of course, Tisha will be attending Monday night’s game at Raymond James Stadium. She will be wearing a customized jersey that demonstrates her split loyalties.
“Bucs on the front and Eagles on the back,” Zyon said. “She’s not going to be picking sides at all, but she’s definitely supporting for both of us.
“I mean, knowing her and her emotion, she’s going to be flooded with tears. Just warming up, and I’m sure throughout the game, she’s definitely going to take a chance to just take a deep breath and take it all in and realize, you know, it was just the three of us. To see her two boys grow up in front of her and blossom, I know it’s surreal for her.”
Note: The Bucs could be without running back Chase Edmonds, who suffered a knee sprain Sunday. Coach Todd Bowles said the team will not add a running back at this time.
• • •
Sign up for the Sports Today newsletter to get daily updates on the Bucs, Rays, Lightning and college football across Florida.