That they would be teammates was inevitable.
Best friends, though? That was by no means a given.
Yet by the time they were walking the halls of Lee County High School, after a decade of playing some form of football together growing up, they were inseparable.
At first glance, Dennis Godfrey and Joey Hall made an unlikely pair. Godfrey was the barrel-chested star with an easy smile and a cell phone number that college recruits had saved long before he was named to the Shrine Bowl. Hall was the small-town kid in the big, broad-shouldered body, but with deceptively quick feet that those same big-time recruiters didn’t see until it was almost too late.
But best friends they were, and best friends they still are, four years after book-ending a Yellow Jackets’ defensive line that led Lee County within a game of playing for a state championship.
On Saturday, though, for the first time in their lives, they were rivals.
It’s been a long and winding road for Godfrey and Hall since the big-time recruiters caught on that the pair were so close that rumors began to swirl they might even be a package deal for a lucky college program.
By National Signing Day, though, their paths forked for the first time. Godfrey honored his long-standing claim that he would attend Wake Forest, even after Virginia Tech had offered Hall, like Godfrey, a full ride. On that day, Godfrey and Hall embraced and smiled for all the cameras, sure that they would indeed face off as ACC rivals one day.
It never worked out that way. Godfrey is now a redshirt sophomore at Wake Forest, making his third position change in the time he’s been in Winston-Salem. Hall quickly found out that Virginia Tech wasn’t the right fit for him and transferred to Elon, where he’s found playing time at defensive end for a nationally-ranked Football Championship Series program.
“When we signed, me at Wake Forest and him at Virginia Tech, we talked about all the ACC matchups we’d have,” says Godfrey, who’s working his way up the depth chart at left tackle. “Things change, but now we might get our shot.”
The Demon Deacons hosted the Phoenix on Saturday, a game that both players have been thinking about for quite some time.
Thinking about, but not talking about.
“It’s kind of snuck up on me since the season started, but in the summer, we knew it was coming,” Hall says. “What’s interesting is that we really haven’t talked that much about it.”
But the guys keep in touch regularly. Still, even when they were side-by-side over the summer playing video games, the topic somehow never came up.
“I think we were both thinking about it I know I was,” Hall says. “And I’m sure Dennis was, too. But it never came out.”
Ask either of them the last time they played against each in anything, and it goes back to that day five weeks ago when they were going at it on the PlayStation 3’s NCAA Football 2009. “I kicked his behind,” Godfrey says, not so gently. “He’s better at the game than me, so yeah, he beat me,” Hall admits.
But on the football field? That’s another story. That takes some serious recollection.
“The only thing I can think of is back when (Lee County) Coach (Jody) Stouffer would put us against each other in an offensive line/defensive line drill,” Godfrey says. “We’ve played a lot together, but hardly at all on opposite sides.”
Did Godfrey win that, too?
“Nah, that was pretty much a stalemate,” Godfrey says.
Whether Godfrey and Hall will find themselves trying to slow the other on Saturday is up to the coaches and the fate of the game of football. And neither player before the game was predicting an outcome either way personally or for their respective teams.
But while their uniforms have changed, their deep friendship has not.
“I’ll definitely make sure I see him after the game, maybe at the 50-yard line,” says Hall.
“I can’t wait to see him,” Godfrey says.
And for the first time, as new adversaries.
But they’ll always be old teammates.
And even older friends.