When the Miami Hurricanes traveled to Blacksburg, Virginia, to face the Virginia Tech Hokies this past weekend, Venice Indians football coach John Peacock had his eyes locked on the trenches.
For the final time as collegians, former Indians Tyler Gauthier and Jarrod Hewitt were lined up across from one another in one of the ACC’s fiercest rivalries.
“I’m so proud to watch these two young men compete against one another,” Peacock said. “To see where they are and to know where they came from, it’s a testament to their hard work and dedication.”
This time around, Gauthier earned the bragging rights as Miami defeated Virginia Tech, 38-14.
Gauthier is a senior center who has started 28 straight games for the Canes and is on the Rimington Award Watch List for college football’s top center.
Hewitt is a redshirt sophomore who has started seven games this year and has been a mainstay in the Hokies defensive line rotation the last two seasons.
“When I committed to Miami I hoped Jarrod would have the opportunity to follow me, but he chose VT,” Gauthier said. “Once he committed there, we knew we would play each other, but the four years has flown by. I can’t believe this is the last one.”
With both players lining up on the interior line, it didn’t take long for them to cross paths.
“The first play of the game we kind of gave each other a ‘what’s up’ look and a smile,” Hewitt said. “After that we went at each other a little, but we had a game to play. I did look forward to catching up after the game.”
During the week, both players acknowledged that it was different to see a face they knew so well as they reviewed scouting reports.
“It was cool to see him up there and we sent each other the picture our coaches used,” Gauthier said. “The coaches said what they had to say but then they asked me about his best moves and how he liked to attack his opponents.”
Hewitt echoed the sentiment.
“Not everyone gets a chance to play against one of their best friends and it made me smile to see him up there,” Hewitt said. “It’s a really cool experience and I got the chance to share his tendencies with my teammates.”
Both players relished the opportunity to play on such a big stage and said their time in Venice prepared them to play in big games.
“We wouldn’t be here without the great coaches we were able to play for at Venice,” Gauthier said. “They worked with us and prepared us to get to this level.”
The Indians still hold a special place for both Gauthier and Hewitt, and they reflected on their practice battles.
“We have gone against each other a lot in practice growing up but this was different,” Hewitt said. “When we practiced we were learning and trying to get better. Now I’m trying to get to his quarterback and he’s trying put me into the ground.”
After the game they got the chance to spend time with each other.
“We both had about seven people each at the game and I got a chance to speak with his parents,” Gauthier said. “We’re all still close and with this being the last time we get to match up, a lot of people wanted to see it. I still talk to his parents and they text me good luck before games.”
Hewitt has two more years of eligibility remaining while Gauthier finishes his Hurricanes career with a bowl game before trying his shot at the next level.
“When I came here I never focused on playing in the pros, but now that it’s here I look forward to the opportunity,” Gauthier said. “It’s teammates like Jarrod who I’ve known since I was 5 that helped me get to this point. It’s also coaches at Venice who taught me to keep fighting and keep pushing no matter what’s going on or what you’re going through.”
Hewitt said he’ll miss their battles in the trenches.
“I knew this was the last time and I wanted to make sure to cherish a special moment,” Hewitt said. “Not many players get to play at this level and get to play one of their best friends and former teammates. With our positions so close, we share the field and the line of scrimmage. There’s nothing like it.”