It’s probably a good bet that through all the years that Winston-Salem State and Wake Forest have played football in the same city the chance of both starting quarterbacks being from the same area is rare.
Until this season.
Jamie Newman (Graham) and Dominique Graves (Gibsonville) grew up about 10 miles from each other and attended different high schools in the Burlington area. Newman has helped the Deacons to a 6-1 record this season as a redshirt junior, and Graves, a sophomore, has the Rams at 4-4 with a chance to win the CIAA’s Southern Division and earn a berth in the CIAA championship game.
“Yeah, we’re just a couple exits from each other,” Graves said.
The Burlington area has developed a reputation for producing football talent through the years. The list of great athletes from the area who went on to play college football is long.
Newman says he considers Graves a friend. When Graves decided to take WSSU’s offer to play quarterback, he called Newman to get some advice.
“I know him through a friend of Spencer Clapp, a teammate of mine (at Wake Forest),” Newman said. “He definitely hit me up and told me he would be in the area, and I told him we could definitely get some work in when we get a chance during the off-season.”
Graves said earlier this month he hasn’t had a chance to talk with Newman much this season. Both have busy weeks with school, practice and games on the weekend.
“It’s pretty big to come from the same area, and doing what we are doing here in Winston,” Graves said. “He’s been making tremendous plays there for Wake Forest, and that’s why they are so successful.”
Newman has been banged up recently, missing the Deacons’ 22-20 win over Florida State earlier this month. Wake Forest will play N.C. State on Saturday, and Newman likely will be back in the starting lineup. A left shoulder injury kept him out of the win over Florida State.
Newman signed with the Deacons out of Graham High School and was redshirted during his first season. He had to wait for his chance but was able to grab the starting spot from Sam Hartman coming into this season.
Graves, despite his success at Eastern Guilford, had exactly one scholarship offer, and it was at WSSU.
Last season, the Rams had to turn to Graves during his freshman season when Rod Tinsley sustained a concussion and was lost for the season. Graves went 4-1 as a starter in 2018 and was named the freshman offensive player of the year in the CIAA. But he has had to deal with some growing pains this season.
Graves, who is two years younger than Newman, looked up to Newman and watched him play numerous times in high school. Because Graham and Eastern Guilford are in different NCHSAA classifications based on enrollment, they two players never faced each other in football.
Graves and Newman are both outstanding athletes and were also basketball players in high school. According to Graves, they also never faced each other on the court.
“There was one time where we were playing them in a Christmas tournament, but we went on vacation so I missed that game,” Graves said.
When the Deacons opened their season Aug. 30 on a Friday night against Utah State at BB&T Field, Graves went across town to see Newman play.
“He played at Graham, and I grew up watching him play a lot,” Graves said about Newman. “I saw a list when I was, like, a sophomore of a top five passing yardage in our area, and he was, like, two or three on the list, and I was fifth or something like that, so that’s cool to kind of look back at the stats.”
Bob Sutton, the award-winning sports editor of the Burlington Times-News since 1995, has seen a lot of high school talent come through the Burlington area and move on to play college football. He says it’s rare to see two quarterbacks in the same city playing college football at the quarterback position.
“I don’t remember it ever happening before, at least in our area,” said Sutton, a two-time winner of the state’s National Sports Media Association award. “We cover nine schools and to have two schools (Graham High School and Eastern Guilford) with former quarterbacks at two different schools is rare. And it’s not far from our area.”
Graves says what really helped him and his twin brother, offensive lineman Kendyl, a starter for the Rams, is what Newman said to him once he signed.
“He asked me right before he came up here,” Newman said. “He just asked me what’s it like, have I ever been around to WSSU, stuff like that, just to get a feel for the town. It’s a good city. A lot of good, interesting food places.”
Thanks to what happened on Saturday in the CIAA, the Rams’ can still win the Southern Division. If they do that, they would have a chance to play for the CIAA title in the championship game in Salem, Va., next month.
As for the Deacons, they have a chance to play in a major bowl game depending on their final five games.
“We both just want to keep going and help our teams win,” Graves said.