ORONO — There are times when all Dan Collins and Jaleel Reed have to do is look at each other and they’ll know what’s about to happen.

The two University of Maine’s football players – Collins the senior quarterback, Reed a junior wide receiver – have a connection that goes far beyond the football field, one that also feeds their success on the field. As the Black Bears prepare to play James Madison in their home opener Saturday, Reed is the team’s top receiver with nine catches for 180 yards and a touchdown.

“We’re beyond teammates,” said Reed. “We’re great friends.”

“I see him every day,” said Collins. “If it’s not at football, we see each other outside.”

That bond has been nurtured over the last three years during long car rides between Orono and their hometowns near Philadelphia. At times they share the ride with junior defensive back Najee Goode.

On a good day the drive lasts about eight hours. On a bad one? “We’ve had some 10-hour drives,” said Reed, who grew up in Philadelphia but now lives in suburban East Lansdowne, Pennsylvania.

Collins, who lives in Williamstown, New Jersey, has the route mapped out in his mind: “(Interstate-)95 to 495 to 90 to 84 to 91 to 95 to the Tappan Zee (Bridge), over 287 then down the (Garden State) Parkway to the (New Jersey) Turnpike, get off at the Atlantic City Expressway. That’s where I drop him off. Then it’s 20, 25 minutes home for me.”

“We’ve built a lot in those drives, as crazy as it seems, in terms of our mentality,” said Reed. “At times we talk about football for a half-hour, an hour, and then we’ll sit in silence. And we know we’re thinking about the same thing. So it’s good. When we go on the field, we’re locked in on each other. We know we’re probably on the same page.”

And while the conversation usually revolves around football, they also talk about – and listen to – music (a lot of rap and hip hop), movies, life goals, campus life and more.

“It’s always a lot of fun,” said Collins. “We talk about our goals, what we’re going to do at home, sometimes we talk about getting together while we’re at home … And last time we drove home, all we talked about was how we couldn’t wait to get back here.”

The drives began in Reed’s freshman year, in 2013, after he flew up to Bangor the first time.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be able to fly up here every time,” he said. “So I asked around. Danny said he had a car and I was welcome to join him.”

They often talk about upcoming games. “When we came up last time it was all about (Maine’s first opponent) UConn,” he said. “It was UConn, UConn, UConn. I kept saying, ‘I can’t wait for you to throw me a touchdown at UConn.’ And then (he) did.”

Collins hooked up with Reed for a 40-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter of the 24-21 loss in the opener.

“Coach (Joe) Harasymiak is always saying, ‘Visualize the plays you want to make before you go out and then make them,’ ” said Collins. “A lot of us have bought into that. There wasn’t a big play (in the UConn game) that I wasn’t all week visualizing and telling myself it was going to happen, especially that throw to Jaleel.”

Reed believes their relationship has allowed them to challenge each other.

“We get at each other all the time,” he said. “I might be wide open in a crucial situation and I let him know. And he’ll say, ‘OK, Jaleel. You’re taking too long (in your route). You’ve got to speed it up.’ And I say, ‘OK, I got you.’ There’s never an argument. We demand it of each other.”

“I just think we have the same type of mentality, a love of the game and football,” said Collins. “We care so much about going out there on Saturdays and making Maine proud, and playing like a Black Bear.”

Harasymiak said their time together has helped them develop as players and people. “I think any time you build a connection, it makes you feel more confident in that person,” he said. “And I’m sure some of that is carrying over from those long drives and the relationship they have off the field.”

It’s not surprising that two players spend so much time together away from football. They and other teammates will watch football – pro or other college games – together and go out to eat together, often to Bangor.

“Sometimes we’ll go out to Bar Harbor,” said Collins. “Sometimes, if we can, we’ll go down to Portland.”

And they are constantly playing video games at Reed’s home in Old Town, especially FIFA, the EA Sports soccer game that allows you to select teams from around the globe. Reed often plays as Real Madrid, the soccer powerhouse from Spain. Collins usually selects Bayern Munich out of Germany.

“He’s probably going to say he wins all the time,” said Collins. “He says he’s unbeatable. He’s not. I’ve beaten him a couple of times.”

The one place they don’t spend time together is in class. Collins is a kineseology and physical education major. Reed is a finance major.

The drives will end after this year when Collins graduates. Reed will have to find someone else to pass the time – and miles – with. But he also knows his relationship with Collins will never end.

“When this is all said and done, we’re still going to be friends,” said Reed. “We have that kind of relationship. It’s never a dull moment with Dan.”