Noah Josey was still in eighth grade and living in Murfreesboro when his family set up prospective visits at Nashville-area private high schools.
Each tour included a personal guide.
Before a walk-through at Ensworth, Josey was introduced to his chaperone, who was a lumbering football player like himself. It was Eli Sutton.
Josey ultimately didn’t enroll at Ensworth — he chose Brentwood Academy — but he and Sutton were reunited a couple years later.
Then, it was Sutton checking out a new school. He showed up at Brentwood Academy and was greeted by his tour guide.
It was Josey.
“So it was kind of full circle,” Josey said. “He came to BA and I shadowed him around. We’ve been teammates ever since.”
And soon the two offensive linemen will be opponents. Both have signed letters of intent with Atlantic Coast Conference schools during the early signing period, which began Wednesday.
Josey, a 6-foot-5, 280-pound right tackle, has been committed to Virginia since spurning offers from Alabama, Ohio State and Stanford. Sutton, a 6-foot-7, 280-pound left tackle, picked North Carolina over finalists Miami and Georgia Tech.
BA held a special signing day to honor the two offensive linemen, along with teammates Elijah Oatsvall (Navy) and James Stewart (Memphis), Wednesday afternoon.
Virginia reached the ACC championship game last year, Josey is quick to remind Sutton. And this season, the Cavaliers scored a wild 44-41 upset over UNC.
But the Tar Heels had a 7-3 record to close the regular season, while Virginia ended 4-5.
“It’s fun getting to be able to talk trash about playing each other over the next 4-5 years,” Josey said. “It’s funny, I never thought I’d be playing against Eli.”
The two finished their careers with the Eagles on an undefeated 2020 regular season and a semifinals appearance in the D-II AAA playoffs.
Josey’s move from right guard to right tackle a few games into the 2020 schedule “really solidified us, and we’ve been really good since,” Brentwood Academy coach Cody White said.
Sutton and Josey bookended on the Eagles offensive line. Because they’re at the same academic level and share position coaches, they spend almost four hours a day together.
As wide-eyed underclassmen, much of that time was spent learning White’s intricate offensive system. Though at first glance it resembles most spread offenses, White emphasizes that it’s more complex than meets the eye.
Some of that is attributed to the protections up front, which mirror what Eagles offensive line coaches Scott Wells and Jason Mathews learned during a combined 21 seasons in the NFL.
Josey and Sutton have come a long way since they began studying the offense as sophomores. Josey was the first of the two to enroll at the school, but that didn’t mean he knew how to teach the system to Sutton.
“You’d think that would be the case,” Josey said, “but I was just learning it as much as he was then. We were in the ringer together at that point.”
Sutton vividly remembers the day Josey first showed him around at their new school. They had shared a journey. Both were the big, new kids. Both had lived in Murfreesboro previously.
But soon, they’ll be headed toward separate sidelines.
“Seeing my high school teammate once every year for four years (on the field), it’s going to be really fun,” Sutton said. “Two Nashville kids playing at one of the highest levels of football.”