Now and then: Mt. Laurel best friends since kindergarten graduate from Rutgers together

Eric Fuzer and Josh Kancylarz celebrate more than 15 years of friendship with college graduation together

Pictured through the years, from left, are Kancylarz (left) and Fuzer in Kindergarten, Kancylarz (left) and Fuzer at their college graduation and Fuzer (left) and Kancylarz in eighth grade.

Eric Fuzer, 21, and Josh Kancylarz, 22, met on the blacktop of Fleetwood Elementary School on the first day of kindergarten. More than 15 years later, the two graduated from Rutgers University together this spring.

“It was your typical 5-year-olds meeting each other,” Kancylarz said. “You ask him if he likes dinosaurs, of course he does, and you instantly become best friends, and hopefully stay best friends.”

Fuzer said when his family moved to Mt. Laurel from Pennsauken just before enrolling in kindergarten, he didn’t have any friends from the area. When he met Kancylarz, who happened to live just a few miles away, the two became inseparable.

“We’re kind of like yin and yang because we’re both unique in our own ways but we’ve never had a huge fight,” Fuzer said. “We can kind of read each other’s mind; I can anticipate what he might be doing and vice-versa.”

The friends moved through schools together, from Fleetwood to Hartford School, to Harrington Middle School and Lenape High School. After living together three out of four years, the two recently graduated from Rutgers University School of Environmental and Biological Sciences in the spring.

“The transition to living together was pretty flawless,” Kancylarz said. “We got a lot of warnings that living together would cause problems and that we would get sick of each other, but that never happened.”

Kancylarz earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, while Fuzer obtained a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and sports studies.

“In college, we worked really well together,” Fuzer said. “We were in the same dorm and we had a lot of the same classes. He (Kancylarz) is really smart, smarter than me, but we would definitely work really well together.”

While Fuzer was the Rutgers University mascot for four years, Kancylarz was more reserved.

“I am quite the introvert who managed to become best friends with the Scarlet Knight mascot of Rutgers,” Kancylarz said.

Kancylarz said although the two are very different, Fuzer helped him come out of his shell in college, and the friendship is a good balance.

While the two have not found careers in their field just yet, Fuzer is working for the Rutgers mascot program this summer and plans to coach for at least the next season. Eventually, Fuzer said he’d like to start a career in marketing and sports management, working his way up from the minor and collegiate leagues to major league sports. Kancylarz said his plan was to land a job in the biochemistry field for one to two years and then return to school to receive his master’s degree.

Although Kancylarz said he sees himself staying in New Jersey, Fuzer is open to moving anywhere in the U.S. The two said they are thankful for the Internet when the time comes they may be separated for the first time.

“That’s the beauty of having the Internet,” Fuzer said. “Josh and I stuck together throughout college and have that face-to-face connection, but even if I moved far away, I think I’d at least talk to him every other day.”

Kancylarz said video games are what would keep the two connected if they ever moved away from each other.

“I don’t think it would be quite the same as when other people move away from friends and family,” Kancylarz said. “This is because of video games. With the magic of the Internet, we can both log on to an application like Skype and just do what we have been doing for ages.”

Reflecting on their friendship over the years, Kancylarz remembered a ski trip to Blue Mountain with the Fuzer family. According to Kancylarz, he has been skiing since he could walk, while Fuzer never had much experience. In the morning, they would do two runs on the mountain and Fuzer would go back to the lodge and sleep.

“I went back out and started to do a couple runs on my own, but me, with my 10-year-old logic, started to freak out because I thought they might leave me behind if I wasn’t with Eric,” Kancylarz said. “So, I went back and found him still asleep and we just spent the rest of the day goofing off in the lodge.”

Kancylarz said looking back, the whole situation was funny. The story is an example of the connection the friends still have, having also stayed in the night before their college graduation, a night that is often spent out at parties, Fuzer said, watching UFC fighting together, something they just started getting into.

“I can definitely see Josh and I being friends until it’s over,” Fuzer said. “He’s a good person to have around and I’m very fortunate. I think we have a very unique relationship.”