Brotherly bond: Farley, Eller reunited on the Virginia Tech football team

Caleb Farley (3) poses with his close friend, Tyzaiah Eller (41) during the 2019 season. (Photo by Cody Dalton/ CSD Photography)Former Red Devil, Tyzaiah Eller (21) tackling former Blue Devil, Caleb Farley (5) in 2016.
Cody Dalton
O-N-E Contributor

Caleb Farley’s three-year college football journey so far at Virginia Tech continues — this time with close friend Tyzaiah Eller by his side.

Once rivals on the Catawba County prep football field, Farley is receiving a boost this year from Eller, joining together on the Hokies football team this fall.

Eller, a former Newton-Conover High School standout who played football for two seasons at UNC Pembroke, knew he wanted to transfer from the Braves and was leaving the program following his sophomore season this past spring.

Unsure of his football future and status with the Hokies, Eller took a leap of faith, enrolling at Virginia Tech to be alongside Farley — someone he considers family.

“I moved in before I got accepted,” said Eller, who originally received a walk-on offer from the Hokies out of high school. “For a couple of days, we didn’t know.”

Farley put in a word with his Virginia Tech coaches for Eller — a 6-foot-2 tight end who caught seven passes for 86 yards during his time at Pembroke. The former Maiden High quarterback also showed the Hokies coaching staff a highlight video of Eller’s play.

“I went to (Virginia Tech head football) coach (Justin) Fuente and told him that I had a big time athlete for him,” Farley said. “He could only help the team. I showed (Fuente) the film. After that, I just went through the process with the administration of getting everything situated and getting the paperwork done.”

The Hokies liked what they saw, offering Eller a preferred walk-on spot, but he would have to redshirt this fall because of his transfer.

Eller immediately called Farley, notifying him of the news that they’d both be Hokies and teammates.

“I was super excited,” Eller said. “We had always talked about doing this together.”

Eller said there have been a lot of differences in playing football at the NCAA Division II level at UNC Pembroke to now being at a Division I football school like Virginia Tech.

“In the trenches, the offensive line and defensive lines are bigger,” Eller said. “Everyone is faster. The technique and skill level are greater. A lot of it is the technique and the intelligence in the game.

You’ve got to know where to be. You’ve got to do your job. You’ve got to make sure you are doing the right things because it’ll show if you mess up.”

Farley and Eller live together off campus — spending time together like brothers, but also keeping each other motivated both academically and athletically.

Being on the same campus as his best friend is something Farley only fantasized about until this fall.

“It feels like a dream. It feels surreal,” Farley said. “I’ll hit him up on the phone and ask him what he’s doing. He’ll tell me he’s got to go to class, and he’s on the same campus as me. He’s like my brother. It’s surreal and like a dream. I feel like we are living in a movie. I think these are going to be the best times of my life and of our lives.”

Eller echoes his best friend’s sentiments.

“Just being able to do this with him is fun,” Eller said. “We always talked about it. When we got the opportunity to make it happen, we did it. It’s still surreal. We’re playing big time college football together.”

While living together can be a dream for Farley and Eller, it can also sometimes mean being responsible and accountable for one another.

Farley got upset with Eller a few months ago after Eller showed up late to his first weightlifting session as a Hokie.

“He came up here, and he was slacking,” Farley said of Eller. “He was late. He overslept and was late to lift. They got on him about it. Then he did it again five days later. I called his mama and told her. I told him he can’t be doing that. That’s not tolerated.”

Eller hasn’t been late since then.

“I invested in an alarm clock, though. A real alarm clock,” Eller said with a smile.

When it comes to practice, Farley and Eller often come into contact.

Farley, a second-year starter at defensive back for the Hokies, lines up against Eller — a scout team tight end.

It reminds the two of their prep football days when Farley’s Maiden Blue Devils played against Eller’s Newton-Conover Red Devils.

“I’ll talk trash to him,” Farley said of his practices against Eller at Virginia Tech. “It’s really set up for him to lose because I know what he’s going to do. He gets a little frustrated.”

While it can be difficult at times competing against one another, Eller says being around Farley has been a blast.

“If I’m over doing my position work and I see him walking across the field, we’ll just look at each other and start laughing,” Eller said. “All of that is just fun. It makes practice better and more fun. It’s something I know I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. It’s a blessing.”

At the end of the day, it’s been fun and games for the two former Catawba County prep athletes — bringing them back to their days when they were both playing football together at Maiden Middle School before Eller transferred to Newton-Conover.

“It’s like we are little kids again,” Farley said. “I know when he wasn’t up here, I would kind of get in slumps in the dog days of doing this every day and straining your body. I have friends, but I didn’t grow up with anybody here. I don’t have any strong bond with anybody here. It was so much like a business, but having him here brings a whole fun side to football back out that I didn’t think I’d ever get to feel again.”

Although Eller has to sit out this year due to his redshirt, Farley is convinced that his best friend will see playing time next season.

“He came up here and made himself known to be a ball player and playmaker,” Farley said of Eller. “His playing time isn’t questionable anymore. It’s set in stone. It’s coming. Next year is going to be a ride. That’s going to be fun. It’s going to be even more fun than it is now.”

While he’s continuing to work towards next season, Eller is driven on and off the field by watching Farley play or the Hokies each week.

Eller is hopeful that he’ll be suiting up to play football at Virginia Tech with Farley next fall.

“He just motivates me to keep working and keep getting better,” he said. “I’m excited, and I’m ready. I’m enjoying the building process I’m going through and working out. When I was playing at Pembroke, (Farley) would be playing when I was playing. I didn’t get to really sit and watch him play like I can now. I want to get out there, but it’s fun watching him. He pushes me, and I push him.”