Put Mitchell High School fraternal twins Carson and Carter Max side-by-side and it isn't hard to decipher their similarities and differences.
Carter is three hours older, compassionate and slightly bigger. Carson is more agile, blunt and intense. They have played the same three sports for the Kernels during the last four years-football, wrestling and baseball-and both have compiled a litany of different accomplishments.
There have never been any stereotypical brotherly living room brawls in the Max household, but they are wildly competitive about the smallest of things. Yet, that competition never gets in the way an unbreakable relationship.
"We've always been there for each other," Carson said. "We're each other's best friend and that's always the way it's going to be. ... That's just our relationship and that's the way it's going to stay."
When they signed up for youth football at the Mitchell Recreation Center, Carter was put on the offensive line due to his size and Carson was placed at running back. The positions stuck through high school and Carson was a three-time all-state selection at fullback and linebacker, while Carter earned all-state recognition at center this past season.
Playing those different positions allowed them to forge different identities on and off the field, rather than being linked as "the twins" or "the boys" by coaches and teammates. They even went as far as to stop their parents, Chris and Kim, from dressing them in identical outfits during the fifth grade.
"You've got one that touches the ball and actually scores and another one that isn't in the spotlight but still plays a huge important role," Carter said. "That's fine with me. I don't need to be running the ball. I can block and that's totally fine with me."
While Carson and Carter may have slightly different appearances and personalities, they have shared some common twin mannerisms. It started with their own idioglossia-or twin speech-as babies and they still often find a unique way to communicate.
It was evident when Carter served as a catcher for Carson when he pitched during youth baseball games. Even now, they unknowingly don the same outfit for school on a regular basis.
"They know what each other is going to do by body language and their own sense," Kim said. "Even when they were younger in sports, we saw that. Carter was the catcher and Carson would pitch and they had their own way of communicating. Even coaches saw that and sat back to let them do their own thing."
That special communication may have helped simmer their ultra-competitive nature outside the house, but it raged inside. There is only one confirmed scuffle during their childhood and neither could recall the cause or the outcome.
Instead, they duel over minute subjects such as who reached the kitchen first for dinner or who got to eat the leftovers. Sometimes they even compete over who has to change when they accidentally wear the same shirt.
The competition never reaches a serious level, though. When Carson captured a 195-pound state wrestling championship last year, Carter wasn't jealous. He simply geared his efforts toward accomplishing the same feat this year.
When it came time for the 220-pound state finals this year in Rapid City, it was Carson that helped Carter prepare, despite being saddled with a season-ending injury that kept him from defending his own title. During the match-in which Carter came up short in overtime-Carson could be seen in the background, intensely watching the action as if he was competing.
"I get nervous when I watch him at the plate or when I watch him wrestle," Carson said. "I get more nervous for him than I do for myself. I was freaking out and I wanted to get out there and wrestle because I knew how many hours I had wrestled with him or just been in the room to let him know I was there."
As graduation approaches, the Max twins are also getting closer to a time in which they won't physically be there for each other as often. Carson is headed to South Dakota State University to study human biology, with hopes of minors in psychology and chemistry, and play baseball, while Carter is set to enroll at Dakota Wesleyan University to study nursing and play football.
They have been putting off the discussion about what life apart might be like, but they also have a positive outlook on it. Mitchell and Brookings are 90 minutes apart and they both knew that separation was inevitable, although they have never spent more than a week away from each other.
"If we would have been together, it would have been awesome, but we both had opportunities," Carter said. "We knew there was going to be a day where we would have to split up. He got an opportunity at State and I got one at DWU and we both knew it was the opportunity for us. We're only an hour and a half away, so it's not too bad."
They may be splitting up for the first time, but their ideal career paths could intertwine. Carson has designs on medical school, while Carter way end up moving towards being a physician's assistant.
"I've always said that I want Carson to be the doctor to find out what's wrong with me, but I don't want him to tell me because he's going to be very factual about it," Kim joked. "I want Carter to be there to take care of me after he tells me."