Grayson Murphy knows what it’s like to walk into the bathroom, look in the mirror, and see a different version of yourself.
Because he’s just standing there.
This familiar face brushes his teeth in unison every morning, having always gotten up at the same time. The virtually indistinguishable pair will continue to eat the same breakfast, finish the same football practice, attend the same classes, complete the same homework and relax at the same bedtime.
Grayson and Gabriel Murphy aren’t inseparable, they’re closer than that.
“I wouldn’t even say we’ve been away from each other for 24 hours in our entire lives,” Gabriel said.
Not everything is the same with twins. Grayson has a slightly thicker build, as well as a small scar over his left eye. Gabriel’s curly hair was dyed a slightly darker yellow, his mother being unable to duplicate the same shade between her sons.
Even so, an untrained eye can hardly tell apart UCLA’s cutting-edge rushers who arrived last spring after transferring from North Texas. Coach Chip Kelly, always detail-oriented, has planned to greet one of the twins if he sees him walking around campus without the other.
“Murph,” Kelly said when asked what he would say. “Murph works well.”
Kelly is seeing double these days because of the twins’ refusal to go solo. In the second year of high school, they thought about how rare their separation was. The only time one attended a slumber party without the other was when whoever was left was being punished.
They made a pact. They would play together in college, no matter what. They told their high school coach not to even have conversations with coaches who wouldn’t take them for granted.
The decision had unintended consequences. The twins wanted to play for a Power Five conference school but couldn’t find anyone willing to take them both.
“Oklahoma State would want one but not the other, TCU would want one but not the other,” recalled Charles Faucette, the former Chargers linebacker who coached the twins at Dallas Bishop Lynch. High. “They both had offers to go to Power Five schools but they weren’t together, so that’s what made it so difficult.”
Part of the problem was their different positions at the time, with Grayson playing outside linebacker and Gabriel playing inside linebacker. Most colleges would need one place occupied but not the other. Another problem was that the trainers believed that if one twin was transferred, the other was sure to follow.
Their dilemma crystallized at a Christian camp in Texas, with a coach advising the twins that the team couldn’t take them both. Amidst tears on the way home, they called a coach from North Texas, a Group of Five school that had offered double scholarships, to tell them the news: they would be coming to show everyone else what they were missing.
“It got emotional on the phone call,” Grayson said, “because our dream was always to go to the Power Five and play college football and it kind of upset us at the time because that we knew we weren’t going to make that dream a reality at that time.
“I wouldn’t even say we’ve been away from each other for 24 hours in our entire lives.”
There was some comfort in their initial choice of college. North Texas was about a 40-minute drive from their home in suburban Dallas, allowing them to fill laundry baskets with homemade meals to bring back to campus each week.
It also kept them close to parents who had adored them since birth. Their father, Chris, remembers thinking when his wife, Shaunielle, told him she was pregnant that since the couple already had two children, a third wouldn’t cost much more. A few months later, she called to say they were having twins.
“I thought right away,” Chris said, “well, I guess four won’t cost more than three.”
Grayson was born two minutes after Gabriel, and there were complications with the delivery of the second twin. His umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, Grayson was not breathing. The nurses rushed him to another room to revive him.
Their names were Christian Gabriel and Christiano Grayson. Like their older siblings who were also named after their father, the twins went by their middle names to avoid confusion.
But sometimes even their parents couldn’t tell them apart. Shaunielle dressed them in identical outfits. Chris once spanked the bad twin, later telling him he would get a pass the next time he misbehaved.
The only time they didn’t have the same class schedule was in first year high school. A counselor feared the twins would terrorize their teachers and besides, they really should be separated to make new friends.
Back when they were redshirt freshmen in North Texas, they were terrifying quarterbacks. After rarely contributing at linebacker, even in practice, they convinced a coach to let them play edge rusher on the scout team at the start of the 2020 season.
In the next game, against Middle Tennessee State, Gabriel recorded his first sack and Grayson had three quarterback rushes and a tackle for loss. This was double trouble for the rest of Conference USA, with the twins continuing to make all-conference teams late the following season.
But at the back of their minds was that lingering desire for top-level college football. They entered the transfer portal and this time just about everyone wanted them both. More than 30 offers from the Power Five teams poured in. Oregon State. Oklahoma. USC. UCLA. Penn State. The twins had their choice.
The Bruins had an early advantage when outside linebackers coach Ikaika Malloe, who had just returned to Southern California from a recruiting trip, hopped on another plane to Dallas for a home visit. Malloe sold the twins on his vision for an offensive defense that could help the team compete for a Pac-12 championship.
Penn State nearly swayed their allegiance during a recruiting visit, but made a critical little mistake. Among the clothes given out by the school to the twins was a coat several inches thick, reminding them of the brutal cold they were about to endure. They also inquired about the quality of the food and were told, in essence, that it would not earn any Michelin stars.
Meanwhile, UCLA’s lavish buffet had drawn praise from a trusted source in Cam Johnson, a former North Texas Twins teammate who spent his final college season in 2021 as a defensive back with the bruins. They have been sold.
The only thing UCLA couldn’t offer was No. 9 which Grayson preferred because he was taken, so he moved to No. 12. It was just one more way to get closer to his brother. , who wore No. 11.
The pairing is a winner for the undefeated Bruins (3-0) thanks in part to the 6-foot-3, 262-pound newcomer dubbed “Texas Two-Step” by linebacker Bo Calvert. They combined for one of the highlights – and bloopers – of the start of the season when Gabriel recovered a fumble against Alabama State and returned the ball to Grayson for an apparent touchdown, only for him to be called up because he was called up. was an illegal pass.
“I didn’t know I was throwing it forward,” said Gabriel, who lost track of his bearings. “We were just out there having fun.”
They can finally experience major conference football on Saturday when UCLA takes on Colorado (0-3) in its Pac-12 opener at Boulder, a prelude to even bigger games against the United States. Utah, Oregon and USC. The twins intend to give the Trojans a second setback after challenging them for their Crosstown rivals.
“I’ve always wanted to come to UCLA, I’ll just say that,” Grayson said when asked how seriously he takes USC.
Gabriel nodded and smiled. The feeling was mutual.