Dartmouth’s Uncommon Set of Twins

  • Dartmouth College offensive linemen Pat (left) and John Kilcommons rest during last week's game at Sacred Heart. The pair of juniors from the Chicago suburbs have been starters the last two years. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

  • Dartmouth College football guard Pat Kilcommons.

  • Dartmouth College football center John Kilcommons.

  • Dartmouth College center Pat Kilcommons prepares to snap the ball to quarterback Jack Heneghan during last week's victory at Sacred Heart. The Big Green hosts Columbia today in a battle of Ivy League unbeatens. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

  • Dartmouth College center Pat Kilcommons, right, watches a Sept. 20 practice on the Blackman Fields. Behind him is his twin, John. The pair have helped anchor the Big Green's offensive line en route to a 5-0 start this season. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, October 20, 2017

Hanover — Pat and John Kilcommons are entrenched on the Dartmouth College football offensive line this season. After battling injuries last fall, the identical twins have stayed healthy and ornery as the Big Green has gone 5-0 overall and 2-0 in Ivy League play.

Columbia, sporting identical records, steps onto Memorial Field this afternoon for what is only the 11th time in Ancient Eight history that two of its undefeated teams have met this late in the season. Adding a slight plot twist is that the Kilcommons boys, juniors who hail from the Chicago suburbs, could have been among those in baby blue.

“We definitely gave going there real consideration,” said Pat Kilcommons, who starts at center while John plays left guard. “Columbia’s offensive line coach was our favorite in the recruiting process, but in the end, we’d already lived near a city and we liked Dartmouth’s academics and football more.”

The fact that Columbia hadn’t won an Ivy title since 1961 or had a winning season since 1996 came into play. So too, did the strange personality of then-head coach Pete Mangurian, who was fired in 2015 amidst allegations of abusing his players. And there was the bus ride from Columbia’s campus to its football facilities that players must make through New York City every day.

Nope, we’re not going there, the Kilcommons decided, and the Lions’ loss became Dartmouth’s gain.

“They play with an edge,” a grinning Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens said. “The challenge is for it not to be used against their own people.”

That usually means the other twin, for the Kilcommons have been infamous since high school for arguing with each other in the huddle. Last week, Big Green offensive line coach Keith Clark told the pair to tone it down; their bickering was becoming a distraction. He likened managing them to dealing with an aggravated
husband and wife.

“Attitude is half the battle, and they play with a little bit of nastiness,” Clark said. “They’re not afraid to push a guy after the whistle.”

“We hadn’t even really fought during that game,” Pat Kilcommons said with a shrug. “It’s more during practices, because we want to perfect things. We expect each other to perform, and when something goes wrong …”

The pair’s mother, Diane Kilcommons, said her boys were at each other’s throats from their toddler days, but that it was almost always out of friendship. She likened them to a pair of polar bear cubs, because they had bright blond hair, laughed often and scrapped and rolled and wrestled nonstop. Still, she understands the twins’ propensity to snipe at one another.

“When you’re an identical twin, you’re yoked to the other all the time,” Diane said. “If you make a mistake, the other one is going to tell you you’re an idiot. One reason they got to Dartmouth is because they critiqued each other.”

The twins were home-schooled by their mother through seventh grade.

She and her husband, an electrical engineer, own a children’s tutoring and test preparation center, and she didn’t think having her boys sit at a desk for five or six hours a day was the best idea. So John and Pat would perform a couple hours of school work, go outside to play, and come back for more academics. They took field trips every couple of weeks.

“I didn’t have to push them at all,” Dianne said. “They took school seriously and knew it was their job to be students. A lot of energy was put into their fundamentals and education through age 13, and then it was, ‘Dudes, you’re on your own.’ ”

Diane suggested the boys join eighth-grade football as a way to ease their transition. That coincided with a growth spurt during which she swears she could tell the twins were slightly bigger upon returning home than they had been when they left that morning.

On the football field, they played three of their four seasons at Nazareth Academy lined up next to each other, John at right tackle and Pat at right guard. Two of their linemates also went on to play Division I college football.

“We could tell right away they weren’t your usual goofy freshmen,” said Nazareth coach Tim Racki, whose program won the Catholic school’s first state title in a team sport during the Kilcommons’ senior year. “They had incredible academic course loads and I’d try to give them breaks, but they’d never take them and they’d never complain. They were big-time grinders.”

The Kilcommons drove themselves around in a gold 2001 Buick LeSabre handed down from their father, Mark. Its odometer was approaching 200,000 miles and it may have had only 200 horsepower, but it was roomy and that’s why the twins love it to this day.

“Slide the seats back, slump down and put your feet on the dash,” John said, his expression satisfied at the memory. “It’s not very stylish, but it’s very comfortable.”

Said Pat: “I think it’s appraised at 300 bucks.”

The Kilcommons trained with specialized strength and technique coaches but their height limited them in the eyes of bigger Division I college programs. John is 6-foot-4 and Pat, who broke a growth plate in his lower leg as a high school freshman, is 6-2. Racki said high-end recruiters often won’t even look at a lineman below 6-5.

Given the twins’ smarts, however, the Ivy League seems like a perfect landing spot. They wrote off Pennsylvania after it showed interest only in John, didn’t like the vibes from Cornell and Brown and received lukewarm interest from Yale. Harvard pursued them to a point and Princeton not at all, so it came down to Dartmouth and Columbia.

“Columbia was the first to offer us, but we liked it up here a bit better,” John said. “We knew Dartmouth had a bunch of Chicago-area guys, and we liked the coaches a lot better, overall.”

The two mostly watched as Dartmouth’s 2015 team won a share of its first Ivy title since 1996, then moved into the starting lineup last fall. Pat went down with a foot problem after four games, however, and John, although he played in every contest, was limited by a shoulder injury that later needed surgery. It was a season of few victories and much frustration, including a 9-7 loss at Columbia.

“This game is a focal point of the offensive line as far as proving ourselves,” John said, noting that the Lions bring back defensive line standouts Dominic Perkovic and Lord Hyeamang. “Those guys got the best of us last year.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.