ALAMEDA – Shortly after becoming a Raider, first-round pick Karl Joseph circled Monday night’s game against Houston on the calendar.
This one was going to be special. Should’ve been, anyway.
That was before K.J. Dillon suffered a season-ending knee injury and ruined an opportunity to pit two West Virginia alums on opposite sidelines, a pair that grew up rivals and became great friends.
Joseph went to Edgewater High in Orlando. K.J. Dillon went to school 20 miles northwest at Apopka High. They were the region’s best defensive players, leading two solid programs that clashed four times when they were enrolled. They split those matchups, and garnered great respect for one another from a distance.
Both played safety. Both, it turns out, were recruited heavily by West Virginia.
“We knew of each other,” Joseph said, “but it wasn’t until we got to West Virginia until we got really close.”
Joseph and Dillon took an official visit to West Virginia together, committed to the Mountaineers and were feature players in an excellent defensive backfield.
“It was definitely cool going there together,” Joseph said. “We were from the same area and played against each other in high school, and we ended up playing next to each other.”
Joseph and Dillon were quality NFL prospects. Joseph played strong safety at West Virginia and Dillon was a hybrid safety/linebacker in a secondary with five defensive backs.
Joseph was taken early, at No. 14 overall by the Raiders. Dillon waited a few days longer before Houston took him in the fifth round.
That set up a Monday night showdown now wrecked by injury. Dillon tore his ACL in a Week 6 victory over Indianapolis, and will sit on injured reserve when the Raiders and Texans clash in Mexico City.
“It’s sad that it happened,” Joseph said. “I was definitely looking forward to playing him.”
Joseph certainly feels for his friend. He just lived through an ACL tear and the repair’s lengthy rehab, which cost most of his senior season at West Virginia and the entire pre-draft process.
Joseph’s injury proved a devastating turn that brought mental and physical anguish, so he reached out to Dillon quickly to help him through a rough time.
Nearly a month later, Joseph is happy to report Dillon is doing well.
“He’s in a good mindset,” Joseph said. “I know he’s getting ready to attack it and come back strong. I have definitely tried to give him advice given that I just went through it. I know how tough it can be, and how much work goes into it. But I’m looking forward to seeing him back strong as ever.”