They share a birthday, a bedroom and a ball-hawking mentality. As starting inside linebackers for the Arlington High football team, fraternal twins X’Zavion McDonald and A’Tavion McDonald even share a position. They line up next to each other on the Colts’ new-look 3-4 defense.
The juniors don’t mind sharing the credit with each other — and with their teammates — for an improved defense that has helped Arlington to a 4-0 start heading into its Oct. 6 district game against defending 4-6A champion Mansfield. That start is the Colts’ best start to a season in well over a decade.
“I feel like we’re the best linebacking corps in the district, to be honest with you,” A’Tavion McDonald said. “Everybody’s working together and not in it for themselves. We work together so as the play develops, we hit it.”
The siblings both get after it with equal intensity, with X’Zavion McDonald, who is 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, regarding himself as the harder hitter. And A’Tavion McDonald, who is maybe an inch shorter and 15 pounds lighter than his twin, considers himself the faster runner.
“He’s more of a cover guy, and I’m just like, ‘Smack ’em,’” X’Zavion McDonald said.
He’s my brother and I love him and all, but I’m not going to the same college. It gets to a point where you’re tired of people calling you his name and they’re calling him your name.
As sophomores, the duo were undersized defensive ends in Arlington’s 4-2-5 defense. But with a change in defensive scheme over the offseason, coach Scott Peach quickly identified their potential to be elite performers at inside linebacker.
“I think [A’Tavion] is probably about 215 now. I think [X’Zavion] is probably 230,” Peach said. “You want those body sizes inside. To go with that, they are fantastic playmakers. They’re physical and they’re also athletic kids.”
And they have the kind of chemistry on the field that you might expect from a pair of siblings who spends most of their waking hours together. Their brotherly bond was evident at a recent practice when the two were performing a read drill. The drill asks the linebackers to quickly size up and react to the movements of the opposing offensive linemen. Because both McDonalds are students of the game and in sync with each other, the drill is often a breeze.
“It’s easier for me and him,” A’Tavion McDonald said. “We have a connection. We’ve grown up together, so it’s easier for us to do together.”
The McDonalds, whose father and uncle are also fraternal twins, aren’t the only siblings on the team. The Colts boast six sets of siblings this season. And over the years, Peach has had a number of twins play for him, including former star players Luke and Matt Joeckel. The McDonalds, Peach said, help set a tone of brotherhood and camaraderie that carries over to the entire team.
“The thing I love about X and A is they really care about one another,” Peach said. “They’re best of friends. They pull for another. They support each other. And at the end of the day, when one of them steps out of line, the other one calls them on it.”
Sure, the twins are supportive of each other, but they’re fiercely competitive, too. The McDonalds strive to outperform each other on the field. But in the second game of the season against Marcus, there was a definite tie. Both brothers recorded 11 tackles and registered a sack.
“We had the same stats, so we were like, ‘OK, next week, I’m going to one up you,’” X’Zavion McDonald said.
The team goals, though, trump any sibling rivalry. “Everyone wants to go out with a bang,” X’Zavion McDonald said. “We can’t let our seniors down.”
The twins’ strong play suggests the Colts aren’t headed for any kind of a letdown anytime soon. But, ultimately, the McDonalds are headed for a future where they step out of each other’s shadow a little bit.
The duo is contemplating going separate ways for college. “He’s my brother and I love him and all, but I’m not going to the same college,” A’Tavion McDonald said. “It gets to a point where you’re tired of people calling you his name and they’re calling him your name.”