You just can’t keep the Dixon twins apart.
Or tell them apart, either.
When Brandon Dixon showed up Wednesday for his first team meeting after being signed to the Saints practice squad the day before, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan mistook him for Brandon’s brother, Brian, who has been with the team since last year.
Which, considering the fact that Rob himself has a twin brother (albeit much slimmer and with shorter hair), is pretty funny.
“I don’t know how you tell them apart,” Ryan said. “I’m now calling Brandon ‘Rex.’ ”
But it’s not the first time it’s happened.
From Pop Warner ball in Coconut Creek, Florida, to high school ball there, to Ellsworth (Iowa) Junior College to Joliet (Illinois) Junior College and to Northwest Missouri State, Brian and Brandon have always been as inseparable as they are indistinguishable, especially as football teammates.
“He’s my second me,” Brandon said when they arrived at Northwest Missouri, which they helped win the 2013 Division II national championship.
It took the NFL to break up the set.
Last season, Brian made it with the Saints as a rookie free agent cornerback and Brandon, also a cornerback, after being drafted and cut by the New York Jets, wound up with Tampa Bay.
But once again, the powerful pull of brotherhood has prevailed.
So much so that not only has Brandon moved into Brian’s apartment, but he’s also appropriated half of Brian’s locker as well.
Which couldn’t make Brian any happier.
“I’d been talking him up to the coaches,” he said of his older sibling (by five minutes). “He looks like me (down to the same haircut), has the same genes I do and is a hard worker. And he’s just like me, because he’ll do all he can to make the team better.”
For Brandon, the Saints represent more of a chance to stay in the league than to be reunited with his brother.
Although he appeared in 14 games for the Buccaneers last season and saw his playing time increased in the last part of the season, Dixon was waived in this year’s final cuts.
He spent less than a week on practice squads at Seattle and Indianapolis before New England signed him to its practice squad Oct. 1.
But the Patriots also let him go. Then, after a workout with the Saints, Brandon is with his sixth team in less than two seasons.
“It really got to me,” Brian said of his brother’s journey of the past couple months. “We talked every day, and I kept telling him just to keep his head straight.
“He’d say, ‘I’m good,’ and I understood he was, because he’s my twin. He just stayed positive, and it’s working out.”
At the same time, Brandon can hardly contain his pride in his twin.
Brian was one of only two UDAs making the Saints’ initial 53-man roster last season, getting the nod over 14-time Pro Bowler Champ Bailey. Dixon appeared in every game, mainly on special teams.
And this year, although the Saints gave up on second-round pick Stanley Jean-Baptiste, they signed Brandon Browner, Kyle Wilson and Delvin Breaux and drafted two other cornerbacks. Brian still stuck around.
Brian remains primarily on special teams and has played well enough to earn a game ball from the Dallas game. He’s also seen increased time at cornerback.
“I used to pray for Brian every day,” Brandon said. “But I knew if he kept his head up and kept pushing, he’d make it.
“I really touched my heart when he made the team, because I’ve seen how tough it is to do it.”
Indeed, Brandon is still only on the practice squad, although Ryan said there’s always the likelihood he could move up to the 53-man roster, given the fluidity the Saints have shown.
“He’s a super-talented kid and a hard worker, so the guys are excited about having him,” Ryan said. “The thing about out team is that we believe in player development.
“We like taking players and bringing them along so they can play on Sundays. If this young man works as hard as we think he’s going to work, he’ll wind up being a great player.”
According to twinstuff.com, the Dixons are the 12th pair of twins to play in the NFL. One half of another set, cornerback Jason McCourty of the Tennessee Titans, will be facing the Saints Sunday. His brother, Devin, plays for New England.
But if Brandon is activated, he and Brian would be the first twins to be NFL teammates since Gene and Tom Golson of the Louisville Colonels, a club which lasted only four games in 1926.
Meanwhile, Brandon will be on the sideline on Sundays, cheering for his brother while admitting it will motivate him even more.
“We’ve always been competitive with each other,” Brandon said. “If he’d beat me in a race, I’d say, ‘Let’s do it again so I can beat you.’
“Football, video games. It doesn’t matter.”
And unlike they’ve done on most teams they’ve been on together, there are no plans to pull the old switcheroo, certainly not for a game, although a practice prank remains on the table. (Neither will comment on whether they’ve ever tried it with girls.)
“I don’t see it, but people say I’m the goofier twin,” Brandon said. “But when it’s time to get work, we’re both serious.
“It’s just exciting to think that we’re in the NFL and back on the same team. That’s pretty special.”
It definitely is.