HANOVER, Va. (WWBT) - When Josh Wells was in fifth grade, he wrote a letter expressing his desire and goal to play in the NFL. It’s a letter his parents recently pulled out and read to him, given the excitement surrounding these couple of weeks.
Wells, an offensive tackle now in his seventh NFL season, will take the field in the Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next Sunday. It’s been a long time since the Hanover High School product has written that letter, and this week it brings some extra emotions out of his parents.
“It’s very emotional as a mom,” Joy Wells said of her son’s letter. “I cry a whole lot. It’s just unbelievable that he knew and he wanted to strive to do this.”
Wells played quarterback for the Hawks in high school, but received no college scholarship offers. He joined James Madison’s football program as a preferred walk-on, transitioned to the offensive line and earned a full ride by his junior season.
“You don’t see kids do it the way that he did it,” noted Josh Just, the former head football coach at Hanover who is now an assistant principal at Caroline County High School. “That determination and work ethic, you fall in love with it as a coach and I’m sure that his coaches along the way saw the same thing that we did.”
“He just wanted to keep on playing. I said ‘follow your heart,’ even though he couldn’t be quarterback,” Joy remembered. “He said ‘I’m here to play football wherever you put me.’”
Josh’s determination would take over once again after college when he didn’t hear his name called in the NFL Draft. He caught on with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in 2014 and earned his way to a roster spot.
“He went in there again as a walk-on,” said Josh’s father, Jeff. “No guarantees or anything, and they liked his footwork and he played well in the preseason games and they decided to give him a shot.”
The former Hawk spent five seasons in Jacksonville and is now in his second year with the Buccaneers. Sure, it’s been a career that’s spanned the better part of a decade, but his parents still aren’t fully used to seeing their son take the field in an NFL game.
“It’s emotional,” said Jeff, who admits to having tunnel vision towards Josh when he’s in a game. “Even now when I see him play, it’s overcome.”
There’s no doubt that the Wells are proud of how far their son has come to put together a career on the football field, but there’s plenty to be proud of outside the NFL as well. They’ve always taught Josh never to forget where he’s come from and he’s taken that to heart. Wells returns to Hanover to host free youth football camps, reads books to elementary school classes and speaks to high school teams, just to name a few of his activities.
“His story is fantastic,” Just said. “His story is one that can really reach every kid, especially the kids in our building here at Caroline and at Hanover, that if you put the work ethic into it and you’re consistent and you do what you’re supposed to do, good things will happen.”
Next Sunday, Jeff and Joy Wells will be on hand to watch Josh take the field at Raymond James Stadium for Super Bowl LV. Many in Hanover will watch on television, hoping to catch a glimpse of the former Hawk in the trenches.
“I’ll be sitting with my son, who will be wearing a Josh Wells jersey watching it and with my daughters, just smiling ear-to-ear, just that he gets the opportunity and just how proud we are of him,” smiled Just.
“I just think that’s the pinnacle,” Jeff said. “There’s nothing else. Unbelievable. I just get choked up and you can’t believe that’s your son.”
Super Bowl LV kicks off on Sunday, February 7, at 6:30.
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