SEFFNER — Two weeks ago, Jamal Nash went down on the turf in practice, clutching his knee. The initial diagnosis was not good: a possible tear in the medial collateral ligament.
In that moment the Armwood High senior linebacker went from the peak of his career to the abyss. He was preparing for the third round of the playoffs, as well as trying to impress college coaches in hopes of landing a scholarship. Moments before the injury, he got his first offer from Tiffin University (Ohio).
Now all of it was in jeopardy.
Malik Nash did what a brother does, assuring Jamal that everything would be okay.
Days later, the roles were reversed.
Malik, a senior offensive lineman for the Hawks, was on the ground writhing in pain during the fourth quarter of the Class 6A region final at Ocala Vanguard. Trainers were on the field, tending to Malik's ankle.
This time Jamal, sidelined with his own injury, was the comforting one, telling his brother to hold on to hope.
"We're twins," Jamal said. "We're connected."
At first glance, the fraternal twins could not be more different. They play on opposite sides of the ball and do not resemble each other in stature. Jamal is 6-foot-1, 195 pounds. Malik is 6-3, 265.
But they do have some telepathic powers.
"I always know where my brother is at and vice versa," Jamal said. "I'm one of the people that can talk to him. Take the Vanguard game. I went out there and got Malik to calm down. Before all that, you got the trainers and refs out there, and Malik's screaming and yelling. He's frustrated. When I came over there, everything was fine."
The two also share a passion for sports. It started with baseball, basketball and soccer.
Once they played football, nothing else really mattered.
"We've been on the football field since we were 6," Malik said.
There is as much competitiveness as there is camaraderie. Jamal is quick to point out that he was born one minute before his brother.
They challenge each other in just about everything, even who can get to school first.
After enduring two losing seasons on varsity at Brandon High, the Nash twins decided to enroll at Armwood for their senior year.
Their battles started the moment they hit the practice field. Hawks coach Evan Davis paired them together in a one-on-one drill. Jamal and Malik went at each other with force, grunting as they tried to exert their will.
Afterward, it was back to being brothers.
"We can compete and we can be best friends at the same time," Malik said. "We can hate each other, but we'll always love each other no matter what. He's always going to be my brother."
This season, they each took on starting roles. Jamal has 54 tackles, seven sacks and three fumble recoveries. Malik has paved the way for Eric Wilson to rush for more than 1,000 yards and has provided protection for quarterback Cam'ron Ransom.
"They have been huge," Davis said of the impact the Nash twins have had this season. "They answered question marks we had at linebacker and the offensive line. Their play has increased throughout the season and it is peaking."
On Saturday, Armwood (13-1) plays Miami Northwestern (9-5) in the Class 6A state title game.
Jamal and Malik refuse to be bystanders. They both said they are healthy enough to start.
"This is the first and only time we've been able to get to a championship game," Jamal said. "There was no way we were going to miss this. It's our only shot, and we want to make it the most memorable."
Class 6A state final
Armwood vs. Miami Northwestern, 3 p.m. Saturday, Camping
World Stadium, Orlando