You wouldn't think Abram Elam and Matt McChesney would share many similarities.
True, both are backups in this New York Jets training camp. But Elam is a 6'0, 207-pound safety while McChesney is a 6'4", 307-pound guard. Elam hails from the South Florida coast, McChesney from the Rocky Mountains. Elam is black, McChesney is white, with assorted other hues mixed in from his extensive body art.
But the two do have a shared life experience. And as McChesney said after Wednesday's morning practice, "It's really a bad thing to have in common."
Elam and McChesney both tragically lost brothers this year.
Elam's older brother, Donald, was shot to death a mile from his home in Riviera Beach, Fla., on May 10, an incident widely reported in the New York area. And McChesney's younger brother, Nicholas, 22, drowned in a swimming accident in Aspen, Colo., on June 29, a loss that has not been widely reported around here.
"It's really hard for him still to this day, as it is for me," McChesney said quietly, powerfully as he sat on an equipment truck. "Your future that you thought was set, growing old with your family intact ... you never know."
Despite their different backgrounds and their different positions on opposite sides of the line, the two have become close.
"Matt went through it with losing his brother, so I've been able to talk to him about some things," Elam said, standing in the Long Island summer sun after that same practice. "We help each other through this healing process. We have days where it's tough. We are human. We just have to do what we can to get beyond it."
That has been tough on McChesney, very close to his kid brother.
"He and his friends were swimming at this place called the 'Punchbowl,' " he said with a sigh about a pool on the Roaring Fork River. "He'd been doing it all day. He jumped in the water and the current grabbed him, dragged him under, and he drowned."
Nicholas McChesney sounded as if he were ready-made for the X-Games. At Aspen's T-Lazy 7 Ranch, he was a winter snowmobile guide and a summer stablehand.
"He was the mountain man of the family, snowboarder, adventurist," said McChesney, who revealed his newest tattoo, a likeness of his brother wearing sun goggles, on his left chest, near his heart.
Both men have found football to be a refuge. Elam has been back with the team since attending his brother's funeral in May.
"I'm thankful to be able to be back up here with my second family, my teammates," he said. "They're my brothers, they're all the players that supported me through this time.
Training camp has eased some of the pain for McChesney as well.
"It is good for me and it's good for Abe," he said. "There are certain times when you try to put it in the back of your mind and do your job. But you're reminded of it very quickly when you call home and talk to your mother and father."
If there is any consolation, it is that the two aren't going through this camp alone, or only with each other, or only with their supportive teammates.
"Abe's older brother is watching out for him," McChesney said, "just like my younger brother is watching out for me."