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By MIKE MARSEE
They were always going to be a package deal.
From the time they began hearing from college coaches, there was never any question that Daron and Zack Blaylock were going to the same school. The twins have too tight a bond with each other, too many shared experiences, too much in common to go their separate ways just yet.
So long before the two freshman safeties knew they were coming to Kentucky, they came to the realization that wherever they were going, they were going together.
“We had the question, but we kind of knew we were going to,” Daron Blaylock said. “We’ve done everything together.”
They are two peas in a pod, but they are not quite alike. Daron, who is 12 minutes older, is also bigger (6-1, 215 pounds vs. 6-0, 188) and has bulked up a bit more since their arrival at Kentucky earlier this summer. On the other hand, Zack is the one college recruiters wanted most.
“I’ve got the same speed, but I’ve gotten a whole lot bigger than I was when I first came here,” said Daron, who played both safety and linebacker at Walton High School in Marietta, Ga.
“He’s, like, the roll-down safety, the strong safety. I’m the back, the free safety,” Zack said.
Daron is the most talkative of the two, typically taking the lead in conversation. But it was apparently Zack who took the lead when it came to taking a hard look at Kentucky.
Daron said he had been enthralled by a visit to Wake Forest last fall before the two gave Kentucky a look.
“Before we came to Kentucky or talked to anybody from here … I was like, ‘Oh, I love this place,’ but Zack was like, ‘No, let’s visit Kentucky before we make our decision,” he said.
So they did, taking the visit together as they had done with all their recruiting trips.
“I came up here for a visit, and I was like, ‘This is where I want to be,’ Zack said.
“And that’s when I fell in love with Kentucky,” Daron added.
The two committed to Kentucky in September, then went on to lead their high school team to a 14-1 season and a trip to the state finals. Zack had 11 interceptions and returned five of them for touchdowns and was voted to the all-state first team by the Georgia Sports Writers Association; Daron had 95 tackles and was named to the second team.
Now they say they are prepared for the fact that their collegiate careers may not follow identical tracks.
“We don’t really think about it. We don’t really know what’s going to happen right now,” Daron said. “We like to compete, but it wouldn’t really affect us,” Daron said of the possibility of one of them rising up the depth chart faster than the other.
They come by their competitive nature honestly. Their father is Mookie Blaylock, who starred for the 1988 national runner-up basketball team at Oklahoma and enjoyed a 13-year career in the National Basketball Association. Their mother, Janelle Woods, who remarried when the twins were 9 years old after she and Blaylock divorced, was an all-conference volleyball player at Oklahoma.
Since their days in middle school, the twins’ game has been football, and they’re looking forward to raising their game at Kentucky.
“We’ve been working hard, but we’ve got to come out in fall camp and compete, and we’ll see what happens,” Zack said.
Football isn’t the only thing that stokes their competitive fires, however.
“We’re competitive at a lot of things: video games, girls, what not,” Daron said.
The two are seldom seen apart, and when they came to UK, they naturally chose to room together.
“Why not? We like the same things anyway,” Daron said. “We both like the same video games and everything. We have the same group of friends. It’s very rare we do something separate.”
Their video game battles are legendary, with each claiming to be the best before Daron grudgingly gave an inch.
“When it comes to ‘Call of Duty,’ he’s better. At ‘Halo,’ I’m better,” he said.
Their competitions even extend to fishing, a sport the two got serious about in high school.
“We used to fish when we were little with our dad and our grandfather, but we didn’t get serious until our freshman year of high school,” Zack said.
“One of our (teammates) in high school who transferred in, he’s a big fisherman, and we tried fishing with him and just started liking it,” Daron added.
So who’s better with a rod and reel?
“Me,” Zack piped up.
“He gets lucky. I’m a better fisherman,” Daron answered.
They got to try their luck recently in the pond behind coach Joker Phillips’ Lakewood home, but only one of them caught a fish.
“We went to coach Phillips’ house the other day and I caught a carp,” Zack said.
“Carp are easy to catch,” Daron shot back. “It’s the bass and the trout that count.”