Grayson Murphy knows what it’s like to walk into the bathroom, look in the mirror and see a different version of himself.
Because he’s standing right there.
That familiar person brushes his teeth together every morning, after always getting up at the same time. The practically indistinguishable pair will continue to eat the same breakfast, attend the same football practice, attend the same classes, complete the same homework and end the same bedtime.
Grayson and Gabriel Murphy are not inseparable, they are closer than that.
“I wouldn’t even say we’ve been apart for 24 hours in our entire lives,” Gabriel said.
Not everything about twins is equal. 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 was unable to replicate the same shade between her sons.
However, the untrained eye can barely tell the difference between UCLA’s edge rushers who arrived last spring after transferring from North Texas. Coach Chip Kelly, always a stickler for detail, has a plan 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. “Murphy works well.”
Kelly has seen twice as much these days because of the twins’ refusal to go it alone. As sophomores in high school, they thought about how rarely they were apart. The only time one attended sleep without the other was when the one was left on the ground.
They made an agreement. They would play together in college, no matter what it took. They told their high school coach not to even have conversations with coaches who wouldn’t accept them as a full-time deal.
The decision had several unintended consequences. The twins wanted to play for a Power Five conference school but couldn’t find anyone willing to take both.
“Oklahoma State would want one but not the other, TCU would want one but not the other,” recalled Charles Faucette, a former Chargers linebacker who was training for 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 starring at outside linebacker and Gabriel as the inside linebacker-pass rusher. Most colleges would require one spot filled but no other spots. Another issue was that coaches realized that if one twin moved, the other was sure to follow.
Their dilemma ended at Christian’s camp in Texas, a coach informing the twins that the team could not take the two. Amid tears on the drive home, they called a coach from North Texas, a Group of Five school that had offered two scholarships, to deliver the news: They would come and show everyone else what was missing.
“It was emotional on the phone,” Grayson said, “because it was always our dream to go Power Five and play big-time college football and it really hurt us at the time because we knew we weren’t going to to do. to make that dream come true at that moment.”
“I wouldn’t even say we’ve been apart for 24 hours in our entire lives.”
— Gabriel Ó Murchú
There was some comfort in his initial college choice. North Texas was about a 40-minute drive from their suburban Dallas home, allowing them to fill laundry baskets with home-cooked meals to bring back to campus each week.
He also kept them close to the parents who had been harming them since birth. Their father, Chris, recalled thinking when his wife, Shaunielle, told him she was pregnant that since the couple already had two children, a third wouldn’t be much more expensive. A few months later, she called to say they were having twins.
“So I thought to myself,” said Chris, “well, I guess four won’t be more expensive 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 wasn’t breathing. A nurse hurried him into another room to revive him.
They were named Christian Gabriel and Christiano Grayson. Like their older siblings who were also named in honor of their father, the twins would go by their middle names to avoid confusion.
But sometimes even their parents couldn’t separate them. Shaunielle dressed them in matching outfits. Chris turned the wrong twin once, telling him afterward that he would get a pass the next time he misbehaved.
The only time they didn’t have the same class schedule was as freshmen in high school. A counselor was concerned that the twins might scare their teachers and besides, they should really be separated to make new friends.
By the time they were redshirt freshmen at North Texas, they were terrible quarterbacks. After rarely adding linebackers, even in practice, they convinced a coach to let them play on the scout team early in the 2020 season.
In the next game, against Middle Tennessee State, Gabriel logged his first sack and Grayson picked up three quarterback hurries and a tackle for a loss. It was double trouble for the rest of Conference USA, the twins going on to make all-conference teams by the end of the following season.
But in the back of their minds was that constant desire for big-time college football. They entered the transfer portal and this time almost everyone wanted them both. More than 30 offers from Power Five teams poured in. Oregon State. Oklahoma. USC. UCLA. Penn State. The twins had the choice.
The Bruins had the upper hand when outside linebackers coach Ikaika Malloe, who had just returned to Southern California from a recruiting trip, got on another plane to Dallas for an in-home visit. Malloe sold the Twins on his vision of an aggressive defense that could help the team compete for a Pac-12 championship.
Penn State almost made their commitment during a recruiting visit but made one critical little mistake. Among the clothes issued by the school were displayed the few coats a few inches thick, which reminded them of the brutal cold they endured. They also inquired about the quality of the food and were told, basically, that it would not earn any Michelin stars.
Meanwhile, UCLA’s big buffet spread earned raves from a trusted source in Cam Johnson, a former North Texas teammate of the twins who spent his final college season in 2021 as a defensive back with the Bruins. They were sold.
The only thing UCLA couldn’t offer was Grayson’s favorite No. 9 because it was taken, so he switched to No. 9. 12. It was just one more way to get closer to his brother, who was No. 11 on it.
The tie for the undefeated Bruins (3-0) is thanks in part to the 6-foot-3, 262-pound newcomers nicknamed “Texas Two-Step” by goalie Bo Calvert. They combined for one of the highlights – and bloopers – of the early season when Gabriel recovered a fumble against Alabama State and flipped the ball to Grayson for an apparent touchdown, only to have it called back because that it was an illegal passport.
“I didn’t know I was being thrown,” said Gabriel, who lost track of his bearings. “We were out there having fun.”
They will finally get to experience big conference football on Saturday when UCLA faces Colorado (0-3) in its Pac-12 opener in Boulder, a prelude to even bigger games against Utah, Oregon and USC. The pair are intent on giving the Trojans another goal after thrashing their cross-town rivals.
“I’ve always wanted to come to UCLA, I’m just going to say that,” Grayson said when asked how seriously he considered USC.
Gabriel nodded and smiled. The feeling was mutual.