In this series, we’re talking some of our favorite Ohio State families, keeping things going with a pair of brothers at defensive end.
“Anything you can do, I can do better.”
The mantra of child rivals feels so appropriate when comparing two of the top defensive ends in the NFL. It is wild to consider that the two came from the same school — and the same family.
But alas, that’s where Joey and Nick Bosa have landed. Both still young in their NFL careers, the pair seem to be in a perpetual (yet friendly) battle with one another to prove their dominance as the best edge rusher in the NFL, just a few years removed from their time battling for the role of best defensive end out of Ohio State (and now, on top of their formidable sibling, they both have to contend with Chase Young…).
The Bosa brothers. The hype was unbelievable before even the elder Joey stepped onto campus. And yet, somehow they managed to be even better than the rumors.
The brother bears are a product of a football family — their father, John, and their uncle, Eric Kumerow, were both first-round draft picks by the Miami Dolphins in consecutive seasons. Kumerow also happened to go to Ohio State, starring for the Buckeyes at linebacker.
Joey came to Ohio State as a four-star recruit in the 2013 class. While there was certainly a buzz about the 6-foot-4, 260-pound edge rusher from Florida, who also had offers from Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame and others, he was the seventh-ranked defensive end in his class. It would be impressive, if only his little brother didn’t beat him out just a few years later.
As a freshman in 2013, Joey played in 11 games, recording 7.5 sacks (second-best for the Buckeyes). While his ability to get to the quarterback was evident even at this early stage, his sophomore season — which happened to be one where the Ohio State Buckeyes brought home a national title — allowed the elder Bosa to truly come into his own. Joey was a sack machine, recording 13.5 sacks in 15 games in 2014, single-handedly accounting for nearly a third of Ohio State’s total sacks on the season. That performance earned Bosa Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and unanimous First-Team All-American honors for 2014. Some might also say he secured his status as a top-five pick at that point, and that the 2015 season was simply a formality.
Things definitely fell off somewhat his junior season, with Bosa recording five sacks in 12 games. In all, things didn’t start well, with Joey being suspended for the first game of his final season, nor did they end well, with him getting ejected in the first quarter off the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame for targeting. But once again, Joey’s draft stock was already secure, and he went to the Chargers with the third-overall pick in the 2016 class.
Ohio State fans didn’t mourn the loss of their top defensive end for too long, because another Bosa was on his way. Nick came to Ohio State as a five-star recruit; a top-10 recruit nationally and the best edge rusher in the 2016 class (take that, Big Bear). Expectations were high, and the Buckeyes had an embarrassment of riches on the defensive line. It seemed improbable that Bosa would be able to beat out veteran competition and exceed his brother’s huge footsteps...but he did, and he did it fast.
In 2016, Smaller Bear Bosa had five sacks — good for second on the team behind the great veteran Tyquan Lewis. For some additional context, Bosa was rotating reps at defensive end with Lewis, Sam Hubbard, Jalyn Holmes and Jonathon Cooper.
Like his brother, Nick peaked during his sophomore season in Columbus, racking up a team-high 8.5 sacks (all while adding Chase Young to the defensive end rotation).
In just three games in 2018, Nick managed four sacks (third on the team) before ending the season early with a core muscle injury.
By the end of his college career, Nick didn’t quite meet the level of sack production we saw from Joey, but we’re also left wondering what could have been had he not missed most of his final season at Ohio State.
However, that extra time did mean additional opportunity to prepare for the NFL Draft. And once again, in the spirits of one-upmanship, while Joey was the third-overall pick in the 2016 class, Nick went second-overall in 2019.
The NFL careers have been promising in their respective opening sagas. While Joey got off to a slow start with a hamstring injury, he has long since recovered, and is basically the face of the LA Chargers franchise (don’t come at me, Justin Herbert). .
Nick, meanwhile, was NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and, again as a rookie, led a San Francisco team that rode its defense all the way to the Super Bowl, where Bosa gave Patrick Mahomes a run for his money.
Beyond their individual talents, each of which place them among the top defensive ends in the league, they collectively could be the best pass rushers in their generation. Their relationship with one another and with Ohio State adds to the intrigue.
It would seem the younger brother is edging out the older at every turn: from a slightly better start to his freshman season to a slightly better draft pick to a slightly better start to his NFL career. Of course, Joey has something Nick doesn’t — a national championship. But the bottom line is: most any player would dream to be as dominant as either brother. And each is continuing to push the other to do better.