NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Harry Douglas and Toney Douglas aren’t just brothers, they’re best friends.
Growing up, Harry Douglas was always careful with his decisions, and aware eyes were on him. He knew his kid brother by 18 months was watching him, so he wanted to set a good example.
That doesn’t mean the two brothers didn’t have their moments playing basketball in the back yard of the family’s home in Jonesboro, Georgia.
“Of course Harry, being the big brother, he would always beat up on Toney,’’ Harry Douglas III, their father, said with a smile. “Harry would run in the house, and say ‘Daddy, daddy, I beat Toney 140 to 50.’ And Toney would run in right behind him and say, ‘Yeah, daddy, he cheated. It’s not fair.’
“I would say, ‘It’s OK, Toney, he is just making you better.’ … And you know what? Looking back, I think everything Harry did helped make Toney better.”
Harry and Toney Douglas are doing pretty well for themselves these days. Harry Douglas is in his eighth NFL season, his first as a receiver with the Tennessee Titans. Douglas has 3,211 career receiving yards and nine touchdowns on 267 catches in 96 career games. He played seven seasons with the Falcons before joining the Titans during the offseason.
Toney Douglas is in his seventh NBA season, and his first with the Indiana Pacers. A guard, he’s played in 309 career games with the Knicks, Rockets, Kings, Heat, Warriors and Pelicans. He’s scored 2,361 points while collecting 676 career rebounds with 325 assists. Douglas has averaged 7.6 points per game in his career.
Harry and Toney Douglas became just the sixth set of brothers to play in the NFL and NBA.
“We definitely look at it as a blessing, and thank God every day,’’ said Harry Douglas, a third-round pick by the Falcons in the 2008 NFL Draft. “But we thank our parents also. My parents did a great job raising us.”
Growing up in Jonesboro, located just south of Atlanta, many thought the Douglas brothers might make it to the professional level in another sport – baseball.
The two played travel baseball from an early age, along with just about everything else. Despite being one-and-a-half years older, Harry Douglas always had his brother alongside him. They played on the same teams and shared the same interests. When they played on the same high school basketball team, the fire department oftentimes had to turn fans away.
“We had a key to the gym in Jonesboro. We went from one sport to the next,’’ Harry Douglas said. “We never played video games. We were always out doing something.”
Harry Douglas, despite being just 5-8 and weighing 125 pounds, went to Louisville and became a football star. He ranks high on many of the school’s all-time records lists, including receptions and receiving yards. He beat the odds — and silenced his doubters — every step of the way.
“I heard it my whole life, but that’s why I am thankful for my support system,’’ said Douglas, who’s now 6-foot, 183 pounds. “I was told I was too small to make it here and make it there. I was always counted out and was always the underdog. But you can’t measure heart. I was always willing to work hard, and that’s how I am now.”
Titans Online looks at the career of new Titans WR Harry Douglas, who began his first seven NFL seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. (AP Photos)
Toney Douglas fought to make it himself. He became a Parade All-America performer in high school and went to Auburn, where he led the team in scoring as a freshman. He left the school after his first year, however, and finished his collegiate career at Florida State, where he developed further into a player NBA scouts followed closely.
Toney Douglas was originally drafted by the Lakers with the 29th overall pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, but he was immediately traded to the Knicks. It set his career in motion.
These days, the two are each other’s biggest fans.
“You hear that saying about being your brother’s keeper. Well, that’s how we are,’’ Harry Douglas said. “We are best friends and it works out so perfectly. I am the outgoing, crazy one and he is the calm, relaxed one. So we complement one another.
“There is nothing better than having a brother you are so close with. And he is in a professional sport, so he can understand every situation that I may be in and I can understand every situation he is in also.”
Toney Douglas, in an ESPN story written when he played at Golden State, said he always leaned on his brother for advice. And he said he’s always admired his approach. Harry Douglas III and Stephanie Douglas also have a daughter, Jamila. It’s a close-knit family.
“My brother is my right-hand man. I’m very proud of him,’’ the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Toney said of Harry. “I think my brother is the most underrated receiver in the league, actually, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my brother. If the ball is going to him or not, he’s running the route at full speed. He blocks.
“He makes sure he keeps the defense honest. When you get him the ball, nine times out of 10 he’s going to catch it.”
Harry Douglas said his biggest mission growing up was to always push his brother – and those around him – to be successful. Because of that quality, the Titans became interested in Douglas in free agency. Titans assistant coach Mike Mularkey became familiar with the receiver’s work ethic while coaching him in Atlanta with the Falcons. He told head coach Ken Whisenhunt about him when the Titans were exploring options at the receiver position in free agency.
Douglas has made an impact with the Titans as well. Douglas amassed 258 receptions for 3,130 receiving yards and eight touchdowns from 2008-2014 with the Falcons. He has nine catches for 81 yards and a touchdowns so far this season with the Titans.
“We felt from watching the tape he was a good football player, but Mike said he’s a good leader, he’s a hard worker, and when we brought him in and talked to him, we got that sense.’’ Whisenhunt said.
“I like the leadership he brings to the room. He is good for the young guys, for Justin (Hunter), and he is good for DGB (Dorial Green-Beckham). And he has made some plays for us.”
In the years to come, Douglas hopes to continue making an impact for the Titans in Tennessee. He signed a three-year deal with the team during the offseason. He’ll always be there to make an impact on Toney, he said. The two talk regularly, and attend each other’s games. Toney Douglas attended Tennessee’s season opening win at Tampa Bay, when Harry scored a touchdown, and he was at Nissan Stadium for the team’s game against the Colts.
It makes their father proud.
“My boys, they are best of, best of, best of friends. They always support one another,’’ Harry Douglas III said. “They don’t worry about who has the best house, or who has the most cars or this and that. They don’t get into that.
“They feed off of each other. And it doesn’t matter what each of them is going through, they are always there for one another. They are always calling and talking, supporting one another. Heck, they listen to one another more than they listen to me, but that’s OK.
“Yeah, I’m proud of them. But I’d be proud of them whether they played sports or not.”