It wasn’t supposed to be a package deal when offensive linemen Josh Peoples and Najee Wilson arrived this past summer from junior college to Winston-Salem State, but that's how it turned out.
Peoples and Wilson, who both played at ASA Miami Junior College, have found their respective niches on the line. Wilson is a left tackle; Peoples is a left guard. And it's no accident they're side by side.
“We communicate pretty well, and sometimes we don’t have to say anything because we’ve been playing together for so long,” Peoples said. “Most things I don’t have to tell him or I’ll just gesture toward him, and he’ll know what I mean.”
Not only did the two play together for two seasons at ASA, they also went to the same high school. They were on the varsity team for three seasons at Atlantic Community High School in Delray Beach, Fla.
“Our families know each other very well, and I can go over to his house anytime and he can come to my house,” Wilson said. “We’ve always done stuff together and now we just happen to be in college together.”
They agreed that they first met around the third or fourth grade, then continued to be friends through football.
Both are 21-year-old juniors who have navigated college life together, and it’s something they don’t take for granted.
Recruited heavily by Lawrence Kershaw, the offensive coordinator for the Rams who is also the offensive line coach, the two have embraced WSSU and the football program.
“They have really been good for us since they arrived,” Kershaw said. “I only recruited them through the film that we saw, and they knew I was recruiting both of them, so it just kind of worked out.
“It was during the recruiting process that they told me they played together in high school as well, so that was a bonus in my mind.”
Peoples, who is 6-foot-3 and 295 pounds, and Wilson, who is 6-foot-3 and 335 pounds, gives WSSU's line plenty of size and strength. The line was tremendous last week in a 31-10 win as they paved the way for more than 400 yards of offense.
“We call ourselves the Trench Mob,” Wilson said with a smile about the offensive line’s nickname.
Robert Massey, the interim head coach, loves the way the two have embraced what the coaches have wanted.
“One of the things with recruiting is those guys are coming from Florida, and that’s a long way from home,” Massey said. “Generally, you don’t want to bring just one guy from so far away because he doesn’t know anybody, so by having both of those guys who know each other so well is a big deal.”
Since they have known each other since elementary school there aren't many secrets between Peoples and Wilson.
“Those two guys together are comical, and the team loves them,” Massey said. “They are both funny and play off each other, and they are really helping the offensive line.”
Both are business majors and have been doing well in school, according to Massey.
“I love the environment here and everybody is really cool,” Peoples said. “And having Najee here as well is nice because we’ve played together now for the last six years.”
While both looked at each other and laughed when they were asked to tell their best stories, they limited themselves to talking about high school and what happened on the field.
“I got a lot of different stories about him,” Peoples said about Wilson. “One thing I remember from high school in one game was that he celebrated three straight plays, and you don’t usually see that from offensive linemen. So we were watching film the next day and there he was celebrating, and we were like, ‘What are you doing?’”
Wilson pondered the question a little longer, then settled on a fond memory from senior year of high school.
“There’s a lot of stuff I have on Josh,” Wilson said. “But one thing I remember was from our district championship game when we went 10-0; we talked the whole game to each other about how we wanted to win, and that was in front of like 10,000 people.”
The two get along well and are often together, but what Peoples loves about WSSU is most of the offensive linemen all hang out together. He said that’s part of why the line has been playing so well during their two-game win streak.
“We all hang out together, and that family atmosphere is why we both came here,” Peoples said.
Peoples and Wilson have different reasons for majoring in business, but for Peoples, who is an excellent cook, he wants to learn as much about the business side of owning a restaurant.
“I want to open a restaurant, and I know how to cook, but I don’t know about the business end of it,” Peoples said.
Wilson says he’s had plenty of meals prepared by Peoples.
“He definitely knows how to cook,” Wilson said. “He can cook anything, and when we were in junior college, we weren’t on a meal plan, so he cooked a lot for the both of us. I can trust him in the kitchen.”
They also trust each other in the trenches.