SAN LUIS OBISPO Tanner Trosin and Dano Graves eyed each other late Thursday afternoon, surrounded by the view of the Central Coast, the marine air soothing the sweat from football practice.
But they could only conceal their cool demeanor for a second. They grinned, then laughed, with the affable Trosin removing his bulky red mouthpiece to explain: "I talk better without this."
The irony of these former Folsom High School star quarterbacks on the same team again is one thing. But they once again are competing against each other and two others for the starting quarterback job at Cal Poly.
The locale, something of a training camp paradise, adds a layer of novelty for these two, who are opposites, personality wise, but similar in that they pour their competitive souls into the sport. Trosin and Graves say they clear their heads of pass coverages and defensive reads with frequent short treks to the beach.
Trosin and Graves now look the part of beach goers, not at all resembling the pair who helped Folsom to the 2010 CIF State Division II title.
Trosin, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound redshirt freshman, bears shoulder-length locks that bounce in the breeze. Graves, a 5-10, 180-pound sophomore, has something of a curly mop-top that wouldn't fly at the Air Force Academy, where he spent the previous two years.
"Oh man, look what we have here," Trosin said, pointing to the hills and the Mustangs' sparkling practice facility. "Great location, great school. The team is doing well. The beach is five minutes away. We practice in 75-degree weather. What do we have to complain about?"
Graves agreed: "Nothing. It's been awesome here."
Here, Trosin and Graves appear happy with their surroundings and roles. They vow to support each other in this quarterback competition that also includes junior Vince Moraga and sophomore Chris Brown. Regardless of the outcome on Aug. 18, when Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh said he will name a starter, Trosin and Graves insist their friendship will only grow.
Mostly, they want to relive former glory days, this time at Cal Poly, which won a share of the Big Sky Conference championship last season.
"We're getting ready for Game 1, and we're behind each other, helping each other learn, hoping to get better every day," Graves said. "We want the same thing: to win and to have fun."
In 2010, Graves, then a senior, won the Folsom quarterback job over Trosin, a junior. Trosin moved to wide receiver and also played defense. Graves unleashed a season unlike any in state history, setting a season record with 85 total touchdowns. After earning The Bee Metro and MaxPreps National Player of the Year honors, Graves headed to Air Force on a scholarship. He returned to California, explaining that the military life, though admirable, "was not for me."
In 2011, Trosin took over as Folsom's quarterback and became the first passer in state history to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season (5,185 with 49 touchdowns) and amass at least 6,000 total yards (6,364, including 1,170 rushing with 20 touchdowns). Cal Poly was the only school to offer a scholarship, and he pounced.
The quarterback duel in 2010 didn't divide the passers, though Trosin badly wanted that role. Instead, both players grew to appreciate each other all the more. That theme continues in San Luis Obispo.
"It's a very healthy competition," said Willie Tucker, an Oak Ridge graduate who led Cal Poly in receiving last season. "You can tell there's a lot of friendship and respect between Dano and Tanner."
Walsh, the veteran Mustangs coach, sized up Trosin and Graves: "Tanner, his energy and enthusiasm to be a quarterback, you can feel it.
"Dano is so calm, cool, collected, and he wants it just as bad. These two are totally different, but they both want to excel so bad."
When not competing at practice, Trosin and Graves explore at the beach or play video games.
"Any off chance we can, we go to the beach," Trosin said.
Graves added: "We go to the caves, the cliffs, take hikes. It's all fun."
When it comes to video games, Trosin couldn't help teasing Graves.
"I beat Dano up pretty good in Nintendo 64," Trosin said, to which Graves rolled his eyes.
With that, they picked up their helmets and headed off. Together.