Little seems to link the cities of Tulsa, Oklahoma; Gaffney, South Carolina; and Ypsilanti, Michigan.
Throw in Natchitoches and those numbers dwindle even more.
However, running back Darius Boone Jr. and wide receiver Dennis Smith are a pair of Northwestern State football teammates who have formed a cross-country bond that serves as a common thread through each of those towns – all located in a unique part of the United States.
“It’s crazy, because at Eastern (Michigan), we weren’t as close there as we are here,” Boone said. “We came here together. He’s my roommate now. I get to see him every day. I knew what type of guy he was, but now that we’re roommates and we do everything together, I know he’s a real cool dude.”
Their careers started in different times zones – Boone is from Tulsa while Smith calls Gaffney home – but crossed in Ypsilanti, which sits just outside Detroit.
Their bond, however, deepened as one of two pairs of four-year transfer teammates who reunited in Natchitoches. Tight end Sylvester Campbell III and offensive tackle Tyler McMillan came to NSU from Mississippi Valley State to form the other pair of new but familiar NSU teammates.
As part of a newcomer class that topped the 50-member mark, Boone and Smith were able to help each other integrate into Natchitoches and Northwestern State.
That bond was strengthened during fall camp when Smith battled through an injury, which kept him out for much of the Demons’ preseason workouts.
While Smith was working his way into form, Boone leads Northwestern State in rushing yards (177) through six games.
“I’ve seen the work Boone put in and seen his game evolve,” Smith said. “As someone I live with and have that brotherhood, it makes it different (seeing him have success).”
While Boone has been part of NSU’s four-back rotation throughout the season, Smith has worked his way into a more prominent role in the Demons’ passing attack in the past two games.
Starting with the Demons’ Oct. 7 game at Lamar, Smith has produced back-to-back, six-catch games and ranks third on the team with 16 receptions.
“It’s great seeing everything Dennis worked on finally paying off,” Boone said. “He got his name called for the first time a lot (at Lamar). He’ll continue to make plays and be successful.”
Boone played three seasons at Eastern Michigan, starting his career in the COVID-19-affected 2020 season. Smith arrived a season later after beginning his college career at Duke, which is less than three hours from Gaffney via Interstate 85.
Since then, neither Boone nor Smith have played close to home.
While the Eagles turned Demons refer to each other as brothers and often reference their shared brotherhood, there is another sibling-like angle to their rivalry.
Smith said he and Boone “talk about everything,” but at times argue like genetically related brothers. The pair also will battle each other about nearly everything – including food.
No matter who “wins” those arguments, one thing is clear – their bond is as strong as their op
“We lean on each other,” Boone said. “At Eastern Michigan, I was 15 hours away from home, and he was a little closer. He was there for me then. Now, I’m six hours from home, and he’s 15 hours from home. I’m going to be there for him, and I know he’s going to be there for me.”