SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Joey Bosa had barely made it to the locker room by the time Nick Bosa had fired off the tweet.
As he watched his big brother’s storied college career come to an unceremonious end from the stands of Glendale’s University of Phoenix Stadium, the then-incoming freshman promised to avenge the targeting call that led to Joey’s ejection in the first quarter of last season’s Fiesta Bowl.
“I will finish what you started”
— Nick Bosa (@nbsmallerbear) January 1, 2016
The social media post inferred that the younger Bosa would carry on the family legacy upon arriving in Columbus six months later. But in typical Nick Bosa fashion, it was also a little bit goofy — standing in stark contrast to his big brother’s drier sense of humor.
“It was right after I saw that new Star Wars movie,” Nick Bosa recalls now, referencing 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. “I was sitting at the Fiesta Bowl and he got ejected so I thought it would be a clever tweet.”
One year later, Bosa is back in Arizona, preparing to play in the same game he watched from the stands last New Year’s Day. Although unlike last year’s de facto exhibition against Notre Dame, this year, the No. 3 Buckeyes are now in the College Football Playoff, where they’ll face No. 2 Clemson in Saturday’s semifinal showdown.
In attempting to contain Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson, Ohio State will rely on a rotation that heavily features rush specialists like Bosa. But while he may look, sound and even wear the same jersey number as his big brother, Nick Bosa isn’t keen on comparisons to the now-San Diego Charger who Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas recently called “the most polished (rookie) pass-rusher that I’ve ever seen.”
“I don’t think I’ve done enough in my game yet where I can make comparisons,” Nick said. “We’ll see over time.”
Yet, he conceded: “On the field, I’m trying to emulate what he does on the field, honestly.”
He’s closer to doing just that than he gives himself credit for.
While Joey has become an analytical darling in his rookie season in San Diego, Nick has done the same in his debut campaign with the Buckeyes. Earlier this week, Pro Football Focus named Bosa to its freshman All-America team as he led all freshmen with an 81.8 pass-rush grade.
In 12 games, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native compiled seven tackles for loss and five sacks. The moment from this past year that still stands out to him most came in the season opener against Bowling Green, when he notched the first sack of his college career.
As a rush of adrenaline carried him off the field in excitement, Bosa forgot to perform his brother’s signature shrug. That was until Buckeyes middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan reminded him, leading to a late celebratory pose.
“There was definitely hesitation because I was so jacked up,” Bosa said. “I just wanted to yell and jump up with my teammates.”
Says McMillan of the moment: “As soon as one Bosa left, another one came in and started making plays. When I saw him make the sack, I just had to do it for him. It was only right.”
But for all the similarities between Bosa and his big brother — as well as his dad, John, a former Boston College standout and his uncle, former Ohio State great Eric Kumerow — the youngest Bosa is also in the midst of becoming his own man.
Asked for the biggest differences between himself and his dad and uncle, Nick noted that it’s tough to compare his play to that of the Miami Dolphins’ first-round picks in 1987 and 1988.
“It’s just different back then,” Bosa said. “They didn’t really do any of the stuff we do now.”
As for dissimilarities between himself and Joey, Nick pointed to the two brothers’ respective personalities.
“Personally, I think I’m a nicer guy than he is,” he says with a smile. “More sociable maybe. I think he’s more reserved.”
That shows up in daily FaceTime, text messaging and Snapchat sessions between the two Bosa boys. And while Joey has always been supportive of his little brother, his dry sense of humor sometimes can’t help but make an appearance in his pregame good luck texts.
“If you know Joey, you know he’s not the biggest motivational talker,” Nick says. “He’ll just be like, ‘Good luck, buddy. Go out there and kill them’ or something.
So far, so good.