When the Hokies signed WR Kendrick Holland and OT Mike Arnold out of Winter Haven (Fla.) HS a year apart, the coaching staff envisioned that the pair would be reunited in Blacksburg by now.
While the duo is spending time together these days, it's not in Southwestern Virginia, but rather at a prep school in New Berlin, New York.
The two are now both enrolled at the Milford Academy with the hopes of getting their once-promising football careers back on track.
"They're top recruits and that's what we do at Milford Academy," said Bill Chaplick, head football coach at Milford. "That's what we do, we try to get the best players everywhere and get them to where they want to go after that. Both of them fit right in, they're great kids."
But although they share a common destination, Arnold and Holland each took very different routes from Virginia Tech to Milford.
Arnold was set to enroll at Tech this summer after signing with the Hokies in February. Yet, like fellow 2015 commits Adonis Williamson and Eric Whitehead, he says troubles in the classroom kept him from joining the program.
Once it became apparent that he'd need to consider other options, Arnold starting weighing the various paths he could take to make it back to Division I.
"I was looking for somewhere to go quick because I didn't want to go the JUCO route for two years and have just two years of eligibility in Division I," Arnold said. "Virginia Tech was going to send me to Fork Union (Military Academy), and based off the military stuff I didn't want to do that."
With Tech's preferred option off the table for Arnold, he was open to other suggestions. When some of his family up in New York mentioned they'd heard of Milford, Arnold jumped at the chance.
"They told me about this prep school and said I can be there in the fall and be out by January for the spring and go to Division I and still have four years of eligibility," Arnold said. "So I chose that route and my options are still open so I can go on more officials."
The move to the prep ranks has already paid off for Arnold in a big way. He says that both Ohio State and Florida offered him last week, and while he won't rule out a return to Tech down the line, he stresses that he'll consider all of his many suitors equally going forward.
"Right now, I have my options open," Arnold said. "I'm looking everywhere, I'm not putting my focus on one school because now I have more options. So I'm looking at all my options this time, last time I didn't look at all my options. I took one official to Virginia Tech and I loved it, so I'm going to see what the world brings."
But Chaplick cautions that "he's got a lot of work to do in the classroom" before he considers overtures from other schools, as he's still "not clearinghouse cleared."
Arnold says he'll be diligently working in the classroom to change that.
"I need to get my ACT scores up higher," Arnold said.
He'll have the benefit of going through that process with his former teammate by his side. When Arnold arrived at Milford, he quickly learned that his squad could use someone with Holland's abilities.
"When I got up here, they were saying they needed a wide receiver and I knew his situation, so that was great timing," Arnold said. "God works in mysterious ways."
Holland's "situation" was a bit different than Arnold's. He arrived on campus back in 2014, yet he got into a rhythm with the team due to a torn labrum he suffered during high school.
"As I got to Tech, they tried to make my shoulder stronger but it didn't go as planned," Holland said.
When the strength program proved unsuccessful, Holland says he ended up getting surgery on his shoulder instead to jumpstart his recovery. But that only made him feel more isolated.
"When I got the surgery, that's when things really started to change because I wasn't practicing, I wasn't in the meetings, I was pretty much just working out a little bit and going to the football practices and sitting and watching," Holland said. "I was kind of down because I wasn't playing football. I didn't want to redshirt my freshman year, I wanted to get on the field and make an impact if I could. I just wasn't focused, I wasn't focused at all."
He says that lack of focus led him to decide in March to leave the program and, ultimately, Virginia Tech. He vividly remembers giving the news to his original recruiter, DBs coach Torrian Gray.
"I talked to Coach Gray and everything, he was a little bit disappointed about my decision," Holland said. "He was the only coach I really talked to about what happened. He was kind of disappointed, and he just said 'I hope the best for you' and everything like that. I still kind of regret it. I'll always wish I that I never made that decision and I would've went back."
Despite those lingering regrets, Holland was still looking for a way to move forward with his career. When Arnold reached out to him about a month ago, he jumped at the chance to head up to Milford.
"If it wasn't really for him being here, I don't know if I would've even made the move to come here so that had a big impact on it," Holland said. "But at the end of the day, it was just another opportunity, so I just felt like it was a blessing that God was giving me a second chance."
Like Arnold, Holland says he'd consider a return to Tech, even if there are significant hurdles to him making his way back to Blacksburg.
"I haven't really been talking to Virginia Tech, so I don't really know if they still even want me to come back there," Holland said. "If they do, I would love to come back, I would love to come back to Virginia Tech if I could. At the moment, I'm just leaving my options open."
Even if a return to VT ends up being out of the question, Holland hopes to show enough on the field at Milford to get other programs interested in his skills.
"I just want to show people that I'm a different person and I still can play football," Holland said. "That part hasn't changed. I want to make a good highlight and everything, and just show coaches that I'm a different person and giving me a scholarship won't be a waste of your time or waste of your money or anything like that."
Chaplick says Holland looks completely healthy these days on the field, but there's still some rust he needs to shake off before he can show off the abilities that got the Hokies interested in him in the first place.
"For Kendrick, it's just getting back into game shape because he's been out of the game coming off that shoulder injury," Chaplick said. "He's working really hard, it's no problem whatsoever, he's headed in the right direction, as is Mike Arnold."
Arnold says Chaplick is giving him some work on the defensive side of the ball these days, but "my focus is on left tackle because that's what I want to play in Division I."
Chaplick certainly has experience shepherding players at that position to the next level — the school's website notes that he's coached 10 Division I linemen over the years.
"We're a level up from high school, so he's learning about being a left tackle in college and he's working hard," Chaplick said. "He's good off the field and on the field, he'd be a credit to wherever he goes."
Wherever Arnold and Holland do eventually end up heading, they'll be bound in New York by their shared background. It might not be the destination they originally planned, but Arnold seems to relish being with his old teammate all the same.
"We're the best duo out here, the Florida boys," Arnold said.