NORCROSS

During Wesleyan football practices, they are fairly inconspicuous.

The program's two best linemen, maybe ever, wear jersey numbers expected of skill players with Josh Parrish donning No. 22 and Andrew Patrick sporting No. 30. The two seniors and good friends don't really do this to hide - it's out of necessity since both have ripped through the practice jerseys bearing their lineman numbers.

Jersey damage is the latest breakthrough in a season that has featured many firsts for the Wolves, who are 12-2 and play in their first state championship game Saturday at the Georgia Dome against Emanuel County Institute.

At the heart of the football team's surge to its best season ever are Parrish and Patrick, two players that are tough to hide at a Class A private school where things like enrollment are kept intentionally small.

At Wesleyan, the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Parrish and the 6-1, 265-pound Patrick have few equals.

"We have been lumped together a lot because we're big," Parrish said. "Like (calling us) Thing 1 and Thing 2. We get lumped together. But within the team, we're very different. Within the team, we're seen as two different people, we have our own leadership styles. But outside of our football family, we're pretty much lumped together."

That's been the case since 10th grade, when the duo first became good friends.

Patrick, an experienced football player, began working out with Parrish, a novice who just picked up the sport as a 6-3, 215-pound freshman.

Parrish spent the bulk of his first two seasons with giant knee braces, protection from the pain of Osgood-Schlatter disease, a painful knee condition caused by rapid adolescent growth. But the weight work helped him bulk up his frame and put the knee issues in the past.

Soon the two linemen were in a class by themselves at Wesleyan, doing heavy weight work that their teammates couldn't match - Parrish maxes 350 in the bench, 515 in the squat and 330 in power clean and Patrick's maxes are 345, 510 and 330.

"We started lifting together sophomore year, just me and him, no one else in the weight room," Parrish said. "That's when we started getting associated together. We've worked out together ever since, more times than I can remember."

"Freshman and sophomore year we didn't really hang out that much, then we started working out together," Patrick said. "We were always around each other in the weight room, pushing each other to get better, so we became good friends."

The lifting paid huge dividends for Parrish. So did adding experience on the field.

He swam for Wesleyan as a freshman (he claims to be the football team's fastest swimmer), but he admittedly wasn't much of a football player. He didn't know the nuances of line play, but those would come.

"Freshman year, he came in and was a tall, skinny kid, he wasn't very coordinated," Patrick said. "By the end of sophomore year, he started getting huge. Junior year, he was a monster. The kid came out 300 pounds. He's a big guy and he's a real good athlete now. He moves well and blows people up."

Parrish has added the mass without giving up speed (he runs the 40-yard dash in 5.28 seconds) has shown great strength, including doing 11 hands-forward pull-ups, a feat that truly impressed veteran assistant coach Will Jackson, who knows pulling up 300-plus pounds isn't a breeze.

Jackson also has been impressed with what Parrish has done on the field, which has turned him into a high-level college prospect. The Wesleyan coaches expect much bigger colleges to come calling for Parrish in the coming months.

"He came so far from his junior year that we made a new highlight tape for (Parrish's) first five games this year," Jackson said. "But he's improved so much during the course of the season, we make a new one with the last five games.

"He's playing as well as any big guy I've seen on any team all year long."

Wesleyan's other offensive and defensive tackle has been pretty impressive, too.

Patrick has played a particularly big role on defense, where he was one of only two returning starters this season along with linebacker JJ Russell. He has 47 tackles, seven for losses, from his interior position.

Colleges also love Patrick, who already has an offer from Air Force and interest from many others.

"Andrew's got the quickest first step of a lineman that I've seen, maybe ever," Wesleyan head coach Franklin Pridgen said. "He's got incredibly low pad level and he brings the power to go with it."

Like Parrish, Patrick averages more than 90 snaps per game thanks to building endurance neither had early in the season. The standouts never leave the field when Wesleyan is on offense and rarely get breaks on defense, where they form quite an imposing tandem in the middle.

"Lincoln County ran no plays between the tackles last week (in the semifinals)," Pridgen said. "Everything they ran was wide, which is amazing. To think that Lincoln County looks at Wesleyan and says, 'We can't run there.' It's crazy. But that was nothing more than Andrew and Josh."

The Lincoln County coaches certainly took notice of Wesleyan's two powerhouse linemen, proving that Parrish and Patrick can't hide on game tapes. Or pretty much anywhere else around school.

Even if they switch up jerseys.

"They have to be two of the best linemen we've ever had. We've had nobody better in my opinion," Pridgen said. "They're very good football players and excellent students. I don't see ego. Neither of them are 'look at me' kids. They both play with an edge which I like. But off the field, they're happy-go-lucky, regular high school kids.

"They just happen to be 305 pounds and 265 pounds and they both happen to be Division I caliber football players that get a lot of attention. They lead us in a positive way and they make everyone around them better."

SideBar:

THE PARRISH FILE

Who: Josh Parrish

Sport: Football

School: Wesleyan

Class: Senior

Favorite athlete: Andres Galarraga

Favorite food: Shrimp

Favorite music artist: Tim McGraw

Favorite movie: "Black Hawk Down"

Noteworthy:

· Has offers from Tennessee Tech, Princeton, Dartmouth among others and is close to Air Force offer

· Maintains 3.72 GPA

· National Merit Scholar and member of National Honor Society, National Math Honor Society, National Science Honor Society

· Also has been a swimmer and track and field athlete at Wesleyan

THE PATRICK FILE

Who: Andrew Patrick

Sport: Football

School: Wesleyan

Class: Senior

Favorite athlete: Franklin Pridgen

Favorite food: Fogo de Chao

Favorite music: Rock

Favorite movie: "Braveheart"

Noteworthy:

· Has scholarship offers from Air Force and Virginia Military, with interest from numerous others

· Maintains a 3.0 GPA

· Varsity contributor since his freshman season

· Also member of Wesleyan's track and field team