AUBURN, Ala. — Walking into a gym in his hometown of Mansfield, Texas, last December, Nosa Eguae ran into an old friend.
Eric Waters had just finished his own workout. There, the high school teammates reminisced about the 2012 season. It didn’t go the way either would have liked; Eguae’s Auburn team went 3-9 just two years after winning a national title. Waters’ Missouri squad, meanwhile, finished 5-7, the first time the Tigers had finished under .500 since 2004.
With ample — and unwanted — time on their hands during the Christmas break, the weights were calling their names.
“We were just out there grinding, trying to get better,” Eguae said of their chance encounter. “That was the last time I've talked to him.”
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That won’t change this week. The next time they converse, Eguae said, would come after Saturday’s SEC Championship game in Atlanta.
“Me and Eric, we go back to third grade, we played youth basketball together and we played football in sixth grade, (and he was) my teammate throughout high school,” the senior defensive lineman said. “I've got to talk to Big Waters, his pops. I'm sure I'm going to talk to him after the game.”
Eguae hopes he gets to square off against his longtime friend at some point on Saturday — and he may get his chance.
Though he has shifted inside to play more tackle as the season has progressed, Eguae still sees time at defensive end, which could put him directly across the line of scrimmage for Waters, a tight end.
“Shoot, I would love to,” Eguae said. “I know he’s playing a little bit of H-Back. I’m sure I’ll see him, and when I do, I’ll make sure he sees me, too.”
No one saw this SEC title game matchup coming, though.
Given a moment to reflect on how quickly both teams’ fortunes have changed, Eguae couldn’t help but notice the irony.
Once more, he and Waters will meet under unexpected circumstances.
“Yeah, it's come full circle, and it's an awesome feeling,” he said. “ I'm sure those guys are excited, too, and we're all looking forward to Saturday.”