Competing against each other is nothing new for Jets receiver Jerricho Cotchery and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
Long before the two were setting records together at North Carolina State, they went toe to toe on both the Alabama hardwoods and the 'Bama football fields.
"We always met up in the playoffs in both basketball and football," J-Co said Thursday. "We already had a relationship before we went to N.C. State."
Cotchery, a combo guard at Phillips High School, recalls getting the task of shutting down Rivers, an Athens High sharpshooter, when they met up in the postseason as juniors.
"I was pretty much guarding him the entire game and I shut him down," Cotchery said.
"Basketball was rough," Rivers said on a conference call only hours later. "The game before, I had hit a couple of threes, so they put him on me and he guarded me from when I took the ball out. It was a frustrating night."
But Rivers got his revenge in the football playoffs when they were seniors. Cotchery, who had 39 catches as a senior, 13 for touchdowns, said Rivers, a quarterback/safety at the time, was responsible for a takeaway as Athens took care of Phillips.
"He got a pick when they were throwing it to me," J-Co said.
"They tried to throw him the fade or something like that in football. I was playing free safety and I intercepted a pass intended for him," added Rivers. "We beat him pretty good in football, so we were 1-1 against each other in high school. Certainly those are all good memories."
But Cotchery thinks Rivers' team may have been assisted by an unlevel playing field.
"It was a situation where it wasn't a rainy day at all, but we were playing in the mud. We had a very fast team in high school, so I guess they wanted to have us on a slower surface," he said with a playful chuckle. "They were wetting the field like crazy and there was mud everywhere out there, so they kind of took away some of our speed that game."
Months after that game was played, the pair of Alabamans moved up north to Raleigh and N.C. State. Rivers lived next door to Cotchery as a freshman and he'd swoop in for a game of Madden Football whenever he saw the door open.
"Even when we used to play Madden in the room, he was always sitting there clapping and that would just get you mad right there," "Cotch" remembered. "When he'd beat me at Madden, he'd sit up, clap and be like 'Good play, good play. Oh, that's a good call, Rivers.' "
The Wolfpack made great calls by recruiting both players. From day one, Rivers was the starter and Cotchery became his No. 1 target by the time they were sophomores.
"During a lot of those tight games, he was coming to me and we were building that chemistry and he was kind of gaining that confidence in me," Cotchery said. "From then on, the connection was there."
Cotchery went on to break State records with 200 career receptions and 15 100-yard receiving games while Rivers, an MVP of five bowl games, finished as the NCAA's second-leading all-time passer with 13,484 yards.
"He was the go-to guy my whole time there and one of my all-time favorite teammates and guys," Rivers said.
When they were collegiate seniors, Jets wide receiver coach Noel Mazzone was their offensive coordinator. The results were good as Cotchery was on the receiving end of 86 passes for 1,369 yards.
"He came in and did some great things, opening up the offense a lot more," Cotchery said of Mazzone. "We had a lot of fun that senior year."
They're having fun now, too — as fifth-year NFL pros. Rivers has a unique release and you wouldn't want kids watching him toss the football, but you can't argue with the results. He's off to a torrid start, having thrown six TD passes in just two games.
"He's got a different release, but he can throw it far, he can zip it and he can do all those things," Cotchery said. "It may look funny coming from his hand, but he can throw it pretty far and he can zip it, too.
"Man he's accurate. If he's standing over there and he had to throw the ball at your eye, he would line you up and throw it right at your eye."
Cotchery, a fourth-round pick of the Jets in '04, compiled 82 receptions in each of his last two seasons and has averaged 25 yards a catch in '08.
"I think what he's done in New York hasn't been surprising to me after being around him. And from everything I can gather, he's been huge for those guys," Rivers said.
The long-time friends are set for another date on Monday night. It's time to break the tie.
"I might shoot him a couple of text messages later in the week," J-Co said. "It's going to be fun, man."