A recap of their shared histories includes: Coming to Virginia Tech for official visits on the same weekend during the recruiting process; choosing the Hokies despite overtures from schools in Florida; becoming freshman-year roommates upon arriving on campus; declaring for the NFL draft with a year of eligibility remaining; being selected by the New York Giants in the draft; watching the Giants then give them lockers next to each other at the team’s practice facility; and returning to their roommate roots whenever the Giants are on the road.
But the latest twist might be the best: After up-and-down rookie campaigns, both Wilson and Hosley have been thrust into vital roles with the defending Super Bowl champions battling for one of the NFC’s final playoff spots.
“There’s a lot of ironic stuff that happens with me and Jayron. Part of me was wondering if Danny Coale was gonna be here, too,” Wilson said this week at the Giants practice facility in New Jersey.
“It’s like we keep running into each other. We was cool, but I think being here we continue to bond, especially us being rookies on the same team, coming from the same school, we kind of know each other a little bit more than everybody else in our locker room, so we’re kind of automatically drawn to each other a little bit.”
Let’s start with Hosley, because Wilson and his trademark back flips will be featured in a story for Saturday’s print edition. The ball-hawking cornerback raised some eyebrows around Blacksburg when he decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft. The Delray Beach, Fla., native had a national-best nine interceptions in 2010, but couldn’t replicate it during an injury-riddled junior campaign in 2011.
That, combined with his smallish 5-foot-10, 178-pound frame, were the primary reasons he fell to the Giants in the third round of the NFL draft. But Hosley was one of the early surprises for New York and quickly became the Giants nickel cornerback. He saw extensive action in the first two games of the season before watching his playing time dwindle, partly because of a hamstring injury.
But last week, with starter Prince Amukamara nursing his own hamstring ailment, Hosley received his first career start against the Atlanta Falcons. It didn’t go as planned, and not just because the Giants were blown out, 45-0. Hosley was directly responsible for a 40-yard touchdown pass to Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones and a 37-yard reception to wide receiver Harry Douglas that set up another score.
“I think I kind of kept my eyes on the quarterback too long and he kind of got behind me on that play,” Hosley said of that Jones play. “It’s something to learn from. It won’t happen no more. Trick me once, shame on you. Trick me twice, shame on me. I got to prepare myself better for plays like that down the road. ...
“Coming in, it’s like you know nothing,” added Hosley, who did note that defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s complex coverage schemes made the transition easier. “It’s definitely an adjustment. It’s like I’m a baby.”
Before the Atlanta game, though, Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell sounded encouraged by Hosley’s potential.
“He has great ball skills,” Fewell told ESPN.com. “He’s one of those guys in practice, he seems to always be around the tipped balls. He can always tip the ball up and intercept it and catch it. And you just kind of shake your head, because he’s always making plays.”
Wilson also received the first start of his NFL career against the Falcons, but gained just 55 yards on the ground. That, though, hasn’t diminished the excitement he created two weeks ago when he exploded for a team-record 327 all-purpose yards, including 100 rushing yards, two touchdowns on the ground and a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in a win over the New Orleans Saints.
It was vindication after spending a considerable amount of time in Coach Tom Coughlin’s doghouse following a fumble on his second profession carry when New York opened the regular season on national television against Dallas.
“Some guys got drafted to teams where they was thrown out there and regardless of they made mistakes, they just went to the next play and kept going,” Wilson said. “Coming to a team that went to the Super Bowl and an offense where we got a running back, a receiver, we got a quarterback, when you mess up it’s like, ‘We can take it slow. He needs a break.’”
Whether Wilson starts at running back again Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens depends on the health of running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who is nursing knee and foot injuries. Hosley’s playing time will also be contingent on if Amukamara is healthy enough to play.
Both now live in Seacaucus, N.J., to be closer to the team facility and avoid the busy streets of the city. Neither said they felt overwhelmed by the rigors of the NFL, and Wilson mentioned that his Giants playbook is actually about half the size of the one he had at Virginia Tech last year.
But it doesn’t mean the Big Apple hasn’t made an impression.
“I like the area. It’s basically new things I’m seeing every day that I didn’t get to experience growing up where I did,” Hosley said. “It’s crowded. There’s a lot going on. When you’re in the city, everybody’s moving, man. Everybody’s got somewhere to go.”
Hosley just can’t seem to get rid of Wilson, and after both endured their fair share of obstacles this season, he’s thankful for that.
“We’re always trying to lift each other up or keep each other going, because as a rookie you’re not used to play this long season,” Hosley said. “Some days you’ll come in and I give him laughs or he gives me laughs … It’s not an easy road, but you don’t expect it to be easy.”