NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The time has come for the NFL debut of the McCourty brothers’ family feud.
Devin and Jason have been competing, pushing and downright fighting with each other the way only identical twins can since birth.
The twins will play against each other for the first time — not counting pickup basketball and video games — when Jason’s Tennessee Titans host New England in the regular season opener Sunday.
Let the record show Devin is the oldest by 27 minutes. But Jason played first at Rutgers and beat Devin into the NFL by a year, though Devin got the edge back as a first-round draft pick in 2010.
Jason cheered on his brother as the Patriots won the AFC championship in January, but says this will be their biggest battle yet.
‘‘It’s going to be a unique opportunity,’’ Jason said. ‘‘To grow up with a guy and we were always playing on the same team, so at this level to be able to face off, will be something special that we won’t realize after the game, but probably years from now.
A victory is only part of what’s on the line.
‘‘I'd say each one of us is trying to stake a claim for who the family should root for more throughout the season,’’ Devin said. ‘‘I think he’s felt a little edged out with him just seeing us be in the playoffs my first three years with him coming and rooting on with the family. He’s probably trying to make sure he gets a win.’’
Being identical, the brothers from Montvale, N.J., are so very similar with the NFL finding some differences. Each is a starting cornerback for his team. Jason gets a 2-inch edge on height listed by the Titans as being 6-foot, while Devin is 7 pounds heavier at 195 according to the Patriots.
They played together at St. Joseph’s High School in New Jersey and right into Rutgers University. Devin redshirted though, so they only started together in the secondary for two seasons. Jason says he won all their basketball games, prompting Devin to joke Wednesday his brother must have had a concussion.
‘‘He probably forgets that I won most of those battles,’’ Devin said. ‘‘We don’t remember many of the scores, but we just know he usually left angry.’’
Jason says he’s the better cornerback. Who’s faster? Devin acknowledges Jason ran the faster Pro Day time, while he prefers the last 40-yard dash each ran at Rutgers.
‘‘I ran a 4.31, he ran a 4.32,’’ Devin said.
Coaches who've looked at the brothers on video say they look and play alike on the field. Jason, a sixth-round pick in 2009, has started 24 of his 42 games with four career interceptions, while Devin has started 30 games and already has nine interceptions. The Patriots even moved Devin over to safety some last season in a pinch.
Jason made up for not being drafted as high as his brother last month when the Titans gave him a deal worth $44.3 million keeping him under contract through 2017.
Tom Brady has been studying Jason and sees a fast, tough, physical athlete.
‘‘He’s got a lot of strengths,’’ Brady said. ‘‘So you've got to be careful with the ball around him. He’s a very tough player, and he really forces the receiver to run good routes and for the quarterbacks to make good throws because he can capitalize when it’s a bad throw by a quarterback.’’
The brothers share a Twitter account (at)McCourtytwins, appeared together in a print ad campaign last season, bought their mother a house last year and held their first football camp together at their high school this offseason. They've been looking forward to this game since the schedule was announced in April.
Titans coach Mike Munchak got to watch his friend and now offensive line coach Bruce Matthews play against his own brother, Clay. He thinks it'll be a little easier on these brothers since both play defense.
‘‘It’s exciting for them, and I know it’s a big weekend for their family and it’s something that’s obviously very unique,’’ Munchak said.
The brothers aren’t talking this week, agreeing to lose each other’s number. They will have about 20 family members on hand at LP Field, including their mother who will be wearing a joint Patriots-Titans shirt. Jason, who took care of the tickets so his family has better seats, said his mother better root for the Titans if she’s staying at his house.
Jason also knows the perfect outcome will be a Titans’ victory.
‘‘He'll get over it,’’ Jason said of his brother.