Royce Adams and Donnie Fletcher have a way to go to make this a significant feelgood NFL story, but for now the two defensive backs are glad to know that after playing together as high school teammates in Cleveland, they're back together on the Jets roster heading deeper into this offseason.
"Yeah, we were always pretty close," said Adams during a break in the Jets' rookie minicamp over the weekend. "Donnie played under me at cornerback."
"Royce was a senior when I was a sophomore," Fletcher said. "I looked up to him and he kind of took me under his wing. I'm happy that we're on the Jets now. It's pretty cool."
It took a while for the reunion of Glenville High grads. Adams went on to Purdue, where he was a DB and returner and, for one season, also worked at WR. Undrafted last year, he played for the Arena League's Pittsburgh Power before he signed a reserve/future deal with the Jets in January.
Fletcher is a part of this year's rookie class, signing as an undrafted free agent after playing four years at "field corner" for Boston College.
So they're competing with each other for a precious roster spot, but they've hardly lost sight of the big picture. Glenville, a few blocks from Lake Erie and a few miles from Cleveland Browns Stadium, has been coached by Ted Ginn Sr., a legendary figure in those parts and not just because of his son, Ted Ginn Jr.
"Coach Ginn is a real good guy, real positive," Fletcher said. "He keeps guys in the classroom doing good. He's like a father figure."
"He's a real inspiring guy," Adams agreed. "He'd always say to get your grades right so you can make a better future. Even if you don't make it to the NFL, you always have that piece of paper. My senior year we had 21 guys go to Division I full-ride. Donnie had a very successful career at BC, he was always looking forward to taking it to the next level. Donte Whitner, Troy Smith, Ted Ginn Jr., Antwaun Molden. We're trying to carry on that tradition here."
The tradition, you could say, is that of the Tarblooders. That's the unique nickname of the Glenville athletic teams. In reality it's a job description from American in the early 20th Century.
"Actually, tarblooders are Cleveland guys who used to work on the railroad," said Fletcher. "When they laid the tracks, the tar they used would splatter everywhere and it looked like they were bleeding."
"I look at it as a class of individuals who are working their hardest so that they're sweating blood," said Adams, who showed a tattoo on his right forearm that captured that mood — a logo that looked like the Green Bay Packers' oval G, except that in this rendering, the G is not white on a green field but red on a black background and of course stands for Glenville. "I see it as a sign about working hard the whole way up, whether on the field or off the field."
Fletcher, who had a nice pass breakup Saturday morning, hinted that the minicamp wasn't quite as physically taxing as getting covered in hot tar. "The first day it was pretty cool. They jammed a lot in there on us," he said. "I felt a little more comfortable today. I'll just keep learning, watching film, getting better."
Adams has a similar motto. He also has a similar lofty goal, perhaps based on the younger Ginn's two-kickoff-return touchdowns for the Dolphins against the Jets in 2009, which all the Glenville grads are familiar with. "I'm trying to get on the kickoff return team myself," he said.