Sunday won't be the first time Jason Verrett lines up across from Brandin Cooks in San Diego.
It's just that the circumstances couldn't be any more different from when they squared off in the sand at the Del Mar Dog Beach over the summer.
Verrett and Cooks are not only two of the brightest young playmakers at their respective positions in the NFL, they are also close friends who have been inseparable off the field since they met preparing for the draft three years ago.
While nothing can break their bond, their friendship will be put to the test for three hours this Sunday when the Chargers face the Saints.
"It's going to be fun just because I know when we are out there, there is going to be an 'I hate you' mentality," Verrett said. "We've got to beat each other. I know we are going to dog it out, and after we'll swap jerseys and show love."
Verrett and Cooks spent the offseason together, working out with one another in America's Finest City. Their last workout was the most memorable as they went one-on-one on the beach.
It was also the most competitive.
"It was a couple days before I took off for camp," Cooks said. "We wanted to make sure we got one more workout in together in more of a competitive environment, so we had this competition on the beach going on. It got heated. We are still going back and forth on who won. I would have to say that was definitely the highlight of the summer."
"That's my bro," Verrett said, breaking into a smile when asked about their friendship. "We linked up when we were both training in Carlsbad for the draft, and ever since we met each other we locked in quick. He's a good dude, a humble dude, and a guy that actually motivated me while training because we were competitors. We have the same mentality. We both grew up in the Northern California area. We talk and text after each and every game to make sure we are straight."
That bond was on display in the days leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft as well.
As two of the top prospects in their draft class, they were both invited to New York to take part in the festivities. It was a stressful time for nearly two dozen soon-to-be rookies who had no idea where they would be spending their professional lives. Luckily, Verrett and Cooks were able to support one another.
"When we were both in New York for the draft, everyone was doing their own thing but it seemed that no matter what, we stuck together," Cooks said. "We both were obviously nervous, so everything we did we made sure we were together. Whether I had an interview, or he had an interview, it was almost like we didn't want to leave each other's side just because we felt so comfortable. In a sense, we didn't want to be around anyone else during that time because it was so stressful."
Set to square off on Sunday, Cooks explains what makes Verrett so difficult to face is that they are carbon copy players of each other. Just like they have a similar temperament off the field, their style of play is like looking in a mirror.
"The way that I always explain it is I feel like he is me, but just playing defense. He is real quick and fast, but at the same time he is a savvy, smart and instinctive player. It's hard to go against a guy like that."
Perhaps the hardest thing for each player is putting all those memories forged the past three years out of mind when they battle on the field. Cooks explained that is easier said than done, and something they joked about in the offseason.
"When we found out we are facing each other, (Jason) was telling me, 'Now I have to take you seriously! Every time I am around you, I am always laughing and you are always joking and now somehow, some way I am going to have to find a way to take you serious.' So that is a little joke that we were joking about this offseason….It's going to be weird."