Nervous anticipation fills his dark brown eyes. Josh’s gaze reveals the overwhelming emotion swirling in his body, twisting knots into his stomach.
Fear. Determination. Adrenaline.
Focusing on a blade of turf, he tries to control his breathing. Josh forms the familiar “L” around the football with his thumb and index finger, gripping the bright white laces tighter than normal.
“I’ve done this before. I’ve done this a million times,” the sophomore long snapper repeats. Despite the August heat, goose bumps form across his arms.
Aware of his eager tension, Ryan (his backup) cracks a joke while catching the perfect spiral throw right between the white numbers, framing the kelly green jersey and black trim.
“Punt team,” special teams coach Seth White yells, scanning for his eleven starters.
Josh’s heart skips a beat as he receives the return throw from Ryan. Doubt floods his mind. He fumbles the ball as if he forgot how to hold one. He turns, walks towards his coach’s voice, careful to avoid tripping and looking like a fool.
“Hey, Josh,” a familiar voice forces him to stop in his tracks and listen.
“Don’t mess up out there,” his twin brother Ryan jokes as he picks up the ball he dropped.
Smiling, Josh knows how hard they each pushed each other to reach Buell Stadium.
The field under the lights.
The twin brothers made the Millard West varsity roster at the beginning of this year’s football season, two of five sophomores talented enough, Josh as starting long snapper, and Ryan as second string.
“We’re in a football family,” Josh says. They inherited their love of the gridiron from their father and older brother Evan, a graduate of Millard West and a former Wildcat football player.
“It’s something they do together,” their mother Tina says. She believes although they are twins, athletics provide them with another way to bond. The camaraderie formed from teammates equals the strength of brotherhood.
While football remains their true passion, the two participated in numerous sports throughout childhood. Whether it be basketball, baseball, or track, they always ended up on the same team. This familiarity with each other’s tendencies results in an unbeatable chemistry on the court and battery pair on the diamond. In contrast, this knowledge of each other’s strengths and weaknesses creates intense one-on-one matchups in basketball.
During team scrimmages, Josh and Ryan occasionally end up on separate teams, quickly turning a practice into a blood bath.
“[It’s] usually not smart to put us on opposing teams,” Ryan laughs.
One second, up in the air, the boys stretch simultaneously for a rebound. The next second both grasp onto the other’s jersey, pulling each other to the hard surface with authority. Rolling around, Josh and Ryan trade haymakers like two heavyweight boxers. When no end seems in sight, the brothers begin laughing as if the fight never started.
Childhood friend and teammate Zach Kloewer remembers the brawls he witnessed between the Lasauskas in and out of sports.
“If they lose, I feel like they want to hurt someone. If they lose to each other, there’s no doubt they want to hurt the other one,” Kloewer says.
Josh and Ryan’s mother is no stranger to her boys’ occasional scrums.
“It’s nerve-racking if they go against each other,” Tina says. She describes their competitiveness as “very intense.” Neither Josh nor Ryan like losing, but they despise losing to one another even more.
Despite a ten-pound weight difference in Josh’s favor, in every competition when the two battle against one another, they face a mirror of themselves.
Same height. Same weight. Same tactics.
A twin rivalry fifteen years in the making.
“[There’s] competition in everything,” Ryan says.
Although they may fight, the twins gained an uncanny togetherness that goes far beyond their DNA. When separate, they remain extremely quiet, not eager to start a conversation and content to their own silent thoughts. When together, this quiet demeanor takes a 180° turn. The brothers show their humorous side, half-smiles become laughter, sarcasm turns into a second language. Both become eager to discuss their ideas and views, which tend to be similar.
“I can be myself with myself,” Ryan says, looking at Josh for agreement. Josh smiles, knowing his brother read his mind.
They always appear in sync with one another. If Ryan wants to play a game, Josh has already set up the board. If Josh wants to watch television, Ryan already has their favorite show on.
“They always seem like they’re on the same page,” Kloewer says.
“Punt!” head coach Kirk Peterson booms, deciding to give the ball back to Omaha North instead of going for it.
Stealing one last glance at his brother for reassurance, Josh meets Ryan’s eyes.
“You got this,” Ryan mouths the words to Josh.
Josh runs onto the field with 7,000 fans cheering him on, but only one voice matters.
“I can do this,” he repeats grasping the familiar leather, forming the “L” with his thumb and index finger.
Josh sighs with relief letting the football sail between his legs in a perfect spiral.
First published in print on 2/11