‘Staying on the move’
Something about soccer ushered the twins into its grasp from their childhood days.
In football, players can wage war on the offensive or defensive unit. But not both. In baseball there is an opportunity to recuperate and rest before every pitch. In basketball there are timeouts and halftime breaks.
But soccer is a different breed. It can be played 365 days a year, in any weather and at any time. You don’t need shoulder pads, a hoop or a bat — you just need a ball.
At a young age, the Humes had an unquenchable desire to never stop moving. They were athletic enough to pick the sport they enjoyed the most and excel, making soccer the easy choice.
Deanne Hume, mother of Walker and Tucker, said the boys were always busy, whether it was a 3 vs. 3 tournament or a summer league.
The concept of staying on the move and picking soccer over other sports was innate.
“Our nature is to always want to be active and on the field,” Tucker said. “Which made soccer something we were attracted to.”
Growing at a shockingly similar rate in high school, the twins sprouted from an average height of 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-4. Both racked up multiple accolades, but failed to win a state title.
But in their junior year at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas the activeness finally caught up with Tucker.Because of wear and tear, he underwent double knee surgery after being diagnosed with osteochondritis dissecans, which can ultimately lead to osteoarthritis if left untreated.
For the first time in their lives, the brothers couldn’t share the field.
“It was a big setback for my playing career,” Tucker said. “But I had good support around me and I kept my faith, and it all worked out.”
Deanne remembers what it was like to see Walker on the field and Tucker on the sidelines.
“It was pretty devastating for us,” she said. “You want to cheer the other one on, but there’s this underlying sadness when they’re not playing together.”
Tucker returned for his senior season and raised his level of play, earning a Gatorade Player of the Year nomination.
With college on the horizon, the twins had their first chance to part ways. But their dream of playing together at the next level eliminated the possibility.
‘An instant attraction’
Upon graduation, the brothers headed to Rollins College, a private school in Florida.
Because he missed his entire junior season, Tucker had fewer opportunities to prove himself to college coaches. They both saw Rollins as a place to thrive on the field and in the classroom — together.
Walker won the Sunshine State Conference Defender of the Year in 2013, while Tucker was first-team All-Sunshine State.
After a successful collegiate season, the brothers filled their desire to never stop moving by playing with a semi-professional team called the Austin Aztex. They went on to win the Premier Development League championship before setting their sights on transferring.
“We played with a bunch of good guys from the ACC, and we realized we could play at that level,” Tucker said.
“We talked to our family and decided that was something we wanted to pursue.”
And so they did. They toured UNC together and felt an instant attraction.
Coach Carlos Somoano was attracted to the brothers right away, not necessarily because of their skill or size, but their intangibles.
“They have what I call that ‘Texas edge.’ I’m from Texas myself and I know what it is,” he said. “They’re committed to our program and have that mix of edge and personality. The edge is not measurable in a 40-yard dash or technical drills.”
After starting defender Jonathan Campbell went down with an injury early in the 2014 season, it was Walker’s time to step up. He played in 15 games and proved to be a huge asset to the team in the wake of Campbell’s injury.
But Tucker, who redshirted, watched his brother play from the sidelines once again.
Walker didn’t feel any pressure when he was forced into the starting lineup mid-season. He knew he had to do it.
“I was ready when my number was called,” Walker said. “I knew I needed to step up, because that’s what was needed for the team.”
Although Tucker was redshirting, he enjoyed watching his brother step up for the Tar Heels’ backline.
“When he would score goals, I would get really happy,” Tucker said. “It was a cool experience, but I obviously wanted to be out there, too.”
Walker finished the season with four goals and two assists, an impressive feat for a defensive player with only 15 appearances.
The twins’ insatiable desire to keep moving took the brothers back to the PDL, where they played for Sockers FC.
Once again, they were back on the pitch together. But not for long.
A desire to stay together
A week before the Humes reported for camp in Chapel Hill this year, Walker fractured his left foot in a PDL game, sidelining him for this season.
“I heard a little pop, but I figured it was just a twisted ankle,” Walker said. “I stayed off it for a week, and then my dad got X-rays done and it was fractured.”
For the second straight year, the brothers would not to play together, as Walker was forced to redshirt.
After mentioning his desire to try broadcasting to Somoano, Walker entered the booth for GoHeels.com, serving as a color commentator.
Deanne said her extended family loves gathering together to listen to him from their home in San Angelo, Texas. The underlying sadness that used to exist when the two weren’t playing together is absent with Walker enjoying himself in the booth.
Walker said he enjoys watching the games from the press box because it allows him to see things he can’t from the sidelines.
“After every game I tell the boys a few things I’ve seen from up there,” Walker said. “I tell them ‘You can do this better and that better.’”
While Walker watches from the booth, Tucker has excelled, scoring a team-best five goals in the first 10 games of the season.
Tucker has been coming off the bench and using his fresh legs to provide a spark for the Tar Heels, whose 9-0-1 record marks the best start in program history.
“It’s a mindset that when you go out there you raise the tempo,” Tucker said. “Then right when you come on try to make an impact.”
With identical twins, there’s often a perception that both share similar interests and personalities along with looks. But that’s not the case with the Humes.
Walker is the witty one. Tucker is the rule follower. Walker is more outgoing, and Tucker is more reserved.
But despite their characteristic differences, they find common ground in their dream of playing together.