KU foes seeing double

Amadi twins making impact in Jayhawks' secondary as freshmen

Donnie and Ronnie Amadi grew up playing the national pastime soccer.

“Back in Nigeria that’s all we did,” Donnie said, “play soccer and run.”

Kansas defensive backs Ronnie, left, and Donnie Amadi are playing major roles in the Jayhawks' secondary. Donnie is a starting cornerback, while Ronnie is his twin's backup.

All that running is paying off for the fleet-footed twins, who are playing major roles for Kansas University’s football program as red-shirt freshmen.

That’s American football not the game with the spotted ball that’s called football in most other parts of the world.

The brothers were born in Columbia, S.C., but they lived with their father, Nigerian police officer John Amadi, in his native country from the time they were 4 until they were 10.

When the brothers moved to Texas with their mother, Christiana Georgewill, in 1991 they knew little of U.S. culture or customs.

“It was a big change,” Donnie said.

For one thing, their soccer days were basically finished. The brothers started playing football in seventh grade.

“My friends told me about football,” Ronnie said, “and I thought it would be fun, so I tried it.”

And they were good at it. Ronnie made 80 tackles and had three interceptions as a junior at Hastings High in Alief, Texas. He was an all-district selection as a senior, while Donnie was honorable mention all-conference.

They both were state qualifiers in track as well.

For more on today’s football game between Kansas University and Bowling Green University, visit kusports.com.Kickoff is at 6 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.The game will be rebroadcast at 11 tonight on Sunflower Broadband channel 6.

So which of the identical twins is faster?

“Donnie’s faster in the 40 and the 100,” Ronnie said. “I’ve got him in the 200 and 400.”

Ronnie ran for KU’s track team during the indoor season last year between the end of football season and start of spring drills. He plans to do so again this year and hopes his roommate and best friend will join him as a two-sport athlete.

“Track really is not my favorite sport,” said Donnie, who is undecided on how he’ll spend his winter.

Make no mistake, though, the twins were determined to be on the same football team.

Both brothers were recruited by several schools, but not every program involved wanted both twins. For example, Texas Tech and Indiana offered Ronnie scholarships but did not pursue Donnie.

Former assistant Mark Farley recruited both brothers to KU, and they red-shirted in 2001.

After spring drills, the Amadis were both listed as backups at cornerback. Donnie, however, moved into a starting role when junior Carl Ivey transferred during the summer.

“When C.I. left, I knew me and Donnie were going to play this year,” Ronnie said. “We had to step up.”

Through three games, Donnie has made 11 tackles and broken up two passes in a starting role, while Ronnie has two tackles and one breakup as a reserve.

“They’ve made great strides,” said KU coach Mark Mangino, whose Jayhawks play host to Bowling Green at 6 tonight at Memorial Stadium. “Both of those guys probably thought they were going to be backups and special-teams guys this year. Now they’re finding out we need them out there to play a lot. They’ve matured in three or four weeks. They’ve learned a lot. You can’t underestimate the value of experience in a game.”

Ronnie might see more playing time because sophomore cornerback Leo Bookman, who had been Donnie’s backup, was moved to receiver two games into the season. Now the freshman is backing up both corners.

“I think they’re really talented young guys,” Mangino said. “I’m really excited about those guys, and we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg in their talent and potential.”

Now if only the coaches could tell the twins apart when they’re out of uniform.

“If I see one of them without the other I say, ‘Hello, Twin. How are you doing?’ Everybody does that.”

There are subtle differences. Ronnie is an inch taller at 5-foot-11. Donnie has a scar in the middle of his forehead from a wound suffered during a tumble down a flight of stairs when he was 2.

Defensive backs coach Pat Henderson is one of many people who struggle with identifying the pair when they’re out of uniform.

“He can’t tell us apart,” Donnie said with a laugh. “He can’t get the scar thing down. He just guesses.”

It probably doesn’t help that Ronnie also has a small mark on his forehead, though it’s not as noticeable as his brother’s scar.

Of course, the brothers aren’t above amusing themselves by creating confusion.

“A girl might call for Donnie,” Ronnie said, “and I’ll be Donnie on the phone.”

Or he might even be Donnie in person.

One day during their sophomore year in high school, Ronnie went to Donnie’s English class while Donnie attended Ronnie’s math class.

“We did it just to see if we could do it,” Donnie said.

It’s worth noting that Ronnie is the better student in math, and there was a test that day.

“I made a D for him,” Donnie said, “so we never did that again.”

Fans trying to spot the twins during tonight’s home game can look for Ronnie in jersey No. 17 and Donnie in No. 26 unless they switch places again.