PEMBROKE — There’s still a little bragging among Miles Grant, Josh Sheridan and Quadrin Williams when they recollect three years after they were counterparts under the Friday night lights. Instead of wearing separate jerseys like then, they are now jockeying for reps in the backfield for The University of North Carolina at Pembroke football team.
All three of the former SEC standout running back from the class of 2015 are currently fighting for a starting position at UNCP after paying their dues and waiting patiently as they were buried on the Braves’ depth chart their first two seasons. For the first time in three years, it is their turn to take over running the ball, and their competitiveness that dates back to high school and beyond is pushing them.
“It was very interesting. I wasn’t expecting all of us to be together, but I’m glad we all came together and are working together,” Williams, a Scotland grad, said. “They feel like brothers to me. I feel like we’ve known each other forever because we’ve been playing against each other since ninth grade.”
For the three redshirt sophomores, the animosity they once had among each other has now turned to brotherhood.
“We were enemies at one point in time playing at different schools, but we’ve became brothers,” said Sheridan, who played for Lumberton. “To be honest, I don’t care who starts because we’re all going to get to play.”
The memories from their unforgettable careers in high school are in the past, but still pop up pretty frequently when the three talk, mostly in the form of friendly jawing back and forth.
“We used to game plan against them. They embarrassed us, they (Richmond) put up 75 on us, they (Scotland) played until halftime,” Sheridan said. “They wanted to be a stat-stuffer against Lumberton I guess. I hear it everyday from them. I take it as a joke though.”
Grant and Williams reminisce on playing each other growing up in football and basketball, and also playing in the Richmond-Scotland gridiron rivalry.
“We didn’t really like him (Williams) at the moment because we wanted to win and he was good,” Richmond grad Grant said. “I’m glad he’s on my team now.”
Williams remembers sharing snaps with freshman Zamir White during his senior year. Back then Williams knew that White was a star in the making.
“It’s crazy because he was behind me a couple years ago and I already knew what he was going to be like when I left,” Williams said. “I knew that he was going to be a big star though.”
Sheridan recalls the blowout losses that he had at Lumberton as a senior to Williams and Grant, and even though he could have the last laugh in any argument by mentioning he was Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, he humbly puts the spotlight on the other two.
“I didn’t deserve it, they did,” Sheridan said.
He is quickly reminded of his nickname, “the GOAT,” by the other two.
Sheridan had 1,603 yards rushing with 20 touchdowns for the Pirates en route to earning Player of the Year honors, Grant had 1,148 yards and 25 touchdowns at Richmond and Williams had 1,293 yards and 15 touchdowns, while splitting time with White, who also rushed for over 1,200 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The drive to continue to work harder was fueled the past two seasons with the trio taking their lumps in practice as the practice team offense against the UNCP starting defense.
“We came a long way from the bottom going up against the No. 1 defense,” Sheridan said. “We were getting hit everyday and thinking about quitting. I’d have the ball and feel like the coaches weren’t really paying attention to me, but we all stayed. We came in with four running backs, it’s odd that all of us stayed, but I think we stayed here for a purpose.”
Even though they were Pirates, Scots and Raiders at one point the thread that pulls them together goes further than the same jersey they wear. All three push each other as running backs, not trying to one up each other, but to show that they are capable of doing it as well.
“It makes me work harder, and makes me love these boys even harder because they go through the same thing I go through,” Grant said. “It’s tough at times, but they pick me and I pick them up when they’re down.”
“We try to see who is going to break the first run. That’s how I go about it. I’m pretty sure they go about it the same way,” Williams said. “Most of the running backs really push each other to finish everyday.”
After spending time behind Rontonio Stanley, Clif Jones and others last season, all three are stepping into their more important roles. All three share hand offs with the first-team offense in practice.
Grant came on last season as a reserve back and rushed for 437 yards. Williams and Sheridan were used sparingly with 33 rushing yards for Williams and five yards for Sheridan. They expect more this fall, however.
“We’ve got a goal at the end of the day. It’s for us to win, we all get 100 yards and we all get All-American,” Grant said. “If I do good, I’m not going to gloat on myself, I’m going to pick one of these guys up because they can do the same thing.”
The Braves open the season on Thursday night at home against Winston-Salem State.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.