By Noah Rubin
Chris and Josh Nelson are no strangers to success.
This spring, Chris won the 200m race at the Class 7A state championships, and Josh placed sixth. The most impressive part is that they did that as sophomores and didn't start running track until eighth grade.
They have the natural speed, but it’s how they compete that sets them apart.
“I feel like our competitiveness makes us better as a duo,” Chris said. “[Josh] is the best corner we got. I’m obviously the best wide receiver we got. It’s a good matchup, but I end up winning.”
While Josh disagreed with the result of their matchups, he agreed that the way they compete has paid dividends for their growth.
“I just hate losing in general, even if it’s with him," Josh admitted. "If he beats me in something, I get mad real quick. But I want him to come back out so we get reps. If he beats me, I want him to come right back out so we can do it again. We’re just going to keep doing it until I win, then we’re gonna stop after that.”
They’re ultimately competitive with each other, but they have all the respect in the world for each other because they know how hard the other works.
“I’ll be more upset if I lost to anyone else, because I know that he’s the best,” Chris said. “If a corner were to guard me, and he beat me on that coverage, I’d be way more mad than if [Josh] beat me, because I feel like he’s the best corner, and that’s the only person that should ever beat me. I feel like I’m the best wide receiver and no corner can guard me. So, if I lose to anyone lower than him, then I know I need to work on whatever I was doing.”
That competitive drive isn’t limited to the football field. It carries over to track, outfits, looks, and video games too. They’re always trying to win, and it affects the culture of the entire team.
“I feel like our competitiveness makes everyone else competitive, and they don’t wanna lose either,” Chris said. “So, it just makes us better as a team. All our DBs are solid because all we do is compete, compete, compete. If they’re guarding me and Josh, that makes them better cause we the best. I feel like if y’all going against the hardest to beat in the county, it makes you better.”
"If he beats me, I want him to come right back out so we can do it again. We’re just going to keep doing it until I win, then we’re gonna stop after that.”Josh Nelson on his rivalry with his brother, Chris Nelson
South head coach Troy Morris agreed with how the two players impact the team.
“They give each other a hard time,” Morris acknowledged. “They’re really competitive with one another. I think that spills over to their teammates as well. They carry that into practice, the weight room. They’re really competitive in a good way.”
The Nelson twins didn’t always play football. They’ve been tossing a football around for as long as they can remember, but the first time they played organized football was their seventh-grade year.
You wouldn’t know that watching them play.
Through four games this season, Josh has 239 receiving yards and two touchdowns on eight catches, while Chris has 220 yards and a touchdown on 10 catches. Together, they've combined for 459 of the team's 649 receiving yards — nearly three quarters.
Their speed has killed every secondary they’ve faced.
It correlates directly to their quick success in track as well, although they admitted it wasn’t always as easy as it looks.
“We were bad at track the first year,” Chris admitted. “We didn’t have spikes. We didn’t have blocks. We just ran. Coach [Austin] Hamilton really got us right though.”
Clearly, Hamilton’s done something right. After Chris won a ring as a sophomore, both of the twins promised it wouldn’t be the last.
“This whole hand gonna be full,” Chris said. “The 100, the 200, 4x100, and long jump. That’s four fingers right there. Two more years. That’s eight.”
“He’s not getting those,” Josh said. “I’m getting those. I’ll have the 200, the 400, triple jump, 4x100, and then we got a football championship. That’s five. That’s a whole hand right there. Then we got the year after that, and we’re gonna do all that same stuff again. That’s 10 fingers.”
Despite disagreeing on who’s going to bring the titles home, the two did agree on one thing.
This year is going to be a show.
“You think we did good last year in track? Wait until you see this year,” Chris said. “It’s a whole different ball game. It was just a preview for real.”
Some may view their claims as boastful, but really it’s just confidence. They know the work they’ve put in, and they expect results.
“All we do is work,” Josh said. “They keep us in the weight room. All we do is work. Everyday.”
Chris, who said he’ll get his ring Oct. 8 when South plays West, isn’t going to hide it away.
“They gonna know for a solid week,” Chris said. “When I go to state next year, I’m gonna wear it for sure. I might just wear it in a race, just to let them know.”
South is 2-1 this season in Morris' first season as head coach.
According to Josh, one of Morris' best attributes is how much he cares about the players.
“He’s got that mentality to wanna win more than any other coach to me,” Josh said. “He really wants to win a championship.”
While they promised improvement in track, they also feel like they’ve grown as football players, which has been evident this season.
Josh tied for the team lead last season with three interceptions. He already has two in three games this year, including a 72-yard pick-six against Dawson County. He added another last week against Central Gwinnett.
“I feel like we’re 10 times better now,” Josh said. “In the offseason, we were working so hard. Everybody else, too. You had other people to make you better too, like Zach [Hobson]. I’m not gonna hate on him, but he wasn’t that good. He went from not playing to starting and being the best corner. And now he’s competing with us. It’s so fun competing with him. He doesn’t like to lose, either. Him and Evan [Bridges] and Kai [Fernandes].”
“Those three people are probably the most competitive people with us on the team,” Chris said. “They don’t like to lose, because if they lose to us in a 1-on-1, that’s all we’ll talk about for the rest of the day. You just gotta come back out tomorrow at practice and beat him so you’re not that laughingstock. We’re good. We’re a real good team. We just don’t realize how good yet. I don’t think it’s clicked yet, but once it clicks, I feel like we’re the best team. Nobody can beat us.”
While Morris didn’t make the same claims, it’s clear he shares the same goals and is willing to do what it takes to make it happen.
“We’re taking it one game at a time, one practice at a time,” Morris said. “We have lofty goals for our team. I think we have some players that are very capable of scoring some points and making plays on defense. It’s a lot of the little things that we’ve got to get better at. But I do think we have the ability to be really good and competitive in the region and in the state.”
The twins shared the side of them that everyone sees: the talent, the speed, the competitive drive. But Morris added the high-character side of them that not everyone sees.
“Ever since they got here as freshmen, they’ve been leaders on and off the field. Great teammates,” Morris said. “In the weight room, they’ll help spot whatever group. They’ll help whatever group clean up. They never thought they were too good for anything. They’re those guys that lead by example. Their teammates love them. Great kids, great players, just fun to be around and fun to coach.”
Josh and Chris feel confident in their team because of the amount of work they’ve put in. That confidence contributes to their mindset that they can beat anybody.
“Since we’re so competitive, we got that mentality that we’re not losing,” Josh said. “Even if they’re bigger than us, stronger than us, faster than us, we’re still not gonna give up and lose.”