Gerald Dixon dislikes the term “half-brother” – he thinks it demeans the intense bond he and his two sons share.
“They’re not half – they’re full,” Dixon said. “They grew up together. They don’t treat each other like they have different mothers.”
When Dixon completed a 10-year NFL career, he moved back to Rock Hill to be with his kids. They lived a couple miles apart with separate mothers, but weekends they were together at Dixon’s home, swimming, eating and constantly talking football.
They played together just once growing up, on a state-championship pee-wee team in 2004. Then they chose to play together in college at South Carolina. Thursday, four years after choosing the Gamecocks, they’ll start together along the defensive line against Texas A&M (6 p.m., SEC Network).
Both sons – Gerald Jr., the defensive tackle, and Gerald ‘G,’ the defensive end – say they’re better for having to wait their turns. South Carolina’s front four was loaded last season with Jadeveon Clowney – the first pick in the NFL draft – Kelcy Quarles and Chaz Sutton. Ascending together makes this more memorable.
“This is a place where you really have to work for your spot. I think both of us did just what the coaches asked us to do. We wanted to start and we went out there to get it,” said Gerald Jr., a redshirt junior.
“We waited this whole summer – we thought it would never come, but we are ready.”
Actually it has been a lot longer than one summer. After winning that pee-wee championship 10 years ago (with their father serving as defensive coordinator), the sons went to different high schools: Gerald Jr., at Northwestern and Gerald ‘G’ at South Pointe.
That was a function of the districting map, but it also felt like the right thing for both sons.
“I think that it was good they separated at that time to find their own identities,” said Dixon, who played linebacker for the Browns, Bengals and Chargers after starring in the early ’90s at South Carolina. “People could see them as Gerald ‘G.’ and Gerald Jr. Both won high school championships competing against each other.”
And then they decided wherever they played college ball, it would be together. They got plenty of recruiting attention from Alabama to Stanford, but they were drawn to the school where their father played, 70 miles south of their hometown.
Their circumstance – born five months apart, with the same first and last names – caused some confusion and a lot of questions from strangers in Columbia. They’ve learned to respond with a sense of humor.
“People would ask us, ‘Did you just meet in college?’ No, we were close since we were really young,” said Gerald Jr.
“The same name, the same dad. It was kind of crazy for strangers to understand. I’d confuse myself sometimes talking about it; who’s the older and such.”
They’re far from clones of each other. Gerald Jr., – bigger of the two at 6-foot-3 and 323 pounds – is calm and quiet, their dad says, while Gerald ‘G’ (6-2, 274) is more rowdy and physical. Gerald ‘G’ has already gone through some injury issues that caused him to receive two redshirt seasons.
But they share a sophisticated understanding of football that started as kids. Every fall they’d travel to one or more of their father’s NFL games. Each spring they’d talk the game in those weekends together.
“A lot of people have the talent, but they learned the game,” their father said. “Gerald ‘G’ can set the defense – he doesn’t just know where he’s supposed to be, but where everyone is supposed to be. That’s leadership.
“Gerald Jr., reminds me of Reggie White the way he could lift the house. He has that strength. He lifts about 500 on the bench press and squats about 600.”
They’re both good students on track to graduate in December. Remaining college eligibility could help pay for graduate school.
They’ve always pushed each other, whether it was together as kids or blocking each other – literally – in high school games. Now that they’re both starting, they’ve come up with a new way to keep score.
“Who gets the most sacks, who gets the most tackles for loss,” Gerald ‘G’ said, with a pricey dinner at stake.
Whichever Gerald loses that wager can probably count on dad to pick up the check.