BOSTON (CBS) — Making it to the NFL is an ambition few actually fulfill. So imagine the odds of twin brothers entering the NFL together — with the same team.
Jacob and Cody Hollister had always imagined reaching the NFL together, but the two never could have imagined they’d be on the same team when that finally became a reality. It’s a fairy tale the twins are now living on a daily basis with the New England Patriots. The two are roommates, of course, as Jacob is enjoying his time as New England’s third tight end while Cody is a wide receiver on the team’s practice squad.
“It’s crazy,” Jacob told WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton in an interview for Patriots GameDay. “Every day we’re driving to work, and just to say it’s work, it’s unbelievable.”
“We didn’t even dream about being on the same team because it’s so unfathomable, that now that it did happen, it’s like ‘wow,'” added Cody. “We didn’t even ask for this much and it happened this way.”
The Hollister brothers shared the football field for most of their lives, bringing their incredible bond with them. Jacob was a quarterback and found a reliable go-to target in his younger brother (Cody was born 90 minutes after Jacob). They had their own checks and signals, often unbeknownst to their coaches, and rode their success to a state title their senior year at Mountain View High in Bend, Oregon. That year, Cody snagged 15 of Jacob’s 31 touchdown passes.
When no FBS schools came calling after high school, the twins stuck together and both walked on at Nevada. They were left searching for a new program after a coaching change during their first season, and eventually made their way to Arizona Western. But there was a bit of a catch: Jacob was asked to turn himself into a tight end.
It was a tough transition for someone who only weighed 210 pounds at the time and didn’t have much experience catching a football, but he had the support of his twin brother. Jacob had just 10 catches his first year as a tight end, while Cody shined as a redshirt freshman, hauling in 69 passes for nearly 1,000 yards and five touchdowns. It wasn’t long until both received scholarships from Wyoming.
But that wasn’t the only offer for Cody, as the Arkansas Razorbacks wanted him to catch passes for their big-time program. It was a tough decision. For the first time, the duo would go their separate ways.
“It’s one of those things you pray for — a huge Division 1 offer in the SEC. Once it was given to me it was like ‘Take it back!'” said Cody. “It meant we had to leave each other, something I didn’t want to do because I’ve always been the semi-little brother. He’s always kind of been the big bro, so it was tough.”
“That was probably one of the toughest decisions we had to make — or he had to make,” added Jacob. “Just knowing how hard it was for him, it was hard for me too. That’s how we’ve always been, when you feel the other’s pain, that means it’s worse on the other one. It was tough, knowing he was down about it.”
Jacob put up some good numbers for Wyoming, with 75 catches and 12 touchdowns, while Cody had 27 receptions and a pair of touchdowns in his 15 games for the Razorbacks. Neither were sure if they would get drafted, though they both had done enough to catch the eye of Bill Belichick. The Patriots coach was in touch with Cody late in the draft, and expressed interest in him as a late-round pick or undrafted free agent.
The Patriots signed Cody shortly after the conclusion of the draft. Jacob had offers from five other teams, but then came another. It was the Patriots, who not only gave him the best offer, but an opportunity to play with his brother again. It was a no-brainer.
“All of a sudden we were both with the Patriots and both kind of shell-shocked, hugging it out,” said Cody.
Their work was far from done, as they both had to make it through the team’s rookie camp, OTAs, training camp and preseason. As roommates, they’d run plays together in the parking lot of the hotel, switching quarterback duties so the other could work on their receiving skills.
Jacob made the roster as New England’s third tight end at the end of the preseason, but Cody was let go. He joined the team’s practice squad shortly after.
“To both still end up here, it’s crazy. We’re with the best organization in football,” said Jacob.
With twins, there’s always the risk of one being mistaken for the other. They don’t like to play tricks on people (minus the occasional and very brief switcheroo at the expense of Cody’s girlfriend), though they admitted they do play off of it when people mix them up. Despite being fraternal twins, they both stand at 6-foot-4. Their 30-pound difference in weight should be enough to distinguish the two, but it doesn’t always work out that way.
Even the New England coaching staff has their brief lapses on the practice field. Cody was approached by tight ends coach Nick Caley one day and asked about a formation.
“It only took him five seconds to realize he had made a mistake,” laughed Cody.
“Pats coaches have been best of anybody knowing the difference,” added Jacob. “That has a lot to do with the program and how much they focus on their players.”
Jacob has been used sparingly his rookie season, catching three of the five passes that have gone his way in the seven games he’s played in, and Cody is doing his part on the practice squad. They may not be stars, but they wouldn’t trade this opportunity for anything.
“Sometimes I feel like I take it for granted now, but when I take a step back and put it in perspective, I’m walking in with my twin brother to the Patriots, the best organization with the best coaching in all of sports,” said Cody. “It’s just the biggest blessing ever. I have so much gratitude walking into this building every day.”
“It’s just an incredible story and it doesn’t make much sense that we’re together again, but we’re going with it,” said Jacob. “We’re living the dream every day.”
Tune in to Patriots GameDay every Sunday morning at 11:30am on WBZ-TV!