It is commonplace for athletes to use the metaphor of brotherhood or sisterhood when describing the nature of their relationship with teammates. After all, many athletes live with teammates, spend time practicing and eating together and need to get along well with one another.
Yet in some instances, teammates can literally be siblings, as is the case with various members of Penn sprint football. This year, two freshmen have joined their older brothers to play on the same team.
Freshman linebacker Brendan Lilley and his brother — sophomore tight end Jonathan Lilley — grew up in Wrentham, Mass. The younger Lilley acknowledged that his brother's presence at the University was highly influential in his own decision to come to Penn.
“Throughout our lives, we’ve always been really close to each other," Brendan said. "We’re a year apart, so we’ve always been there for each other, been really good friends, helped each other out.
“I didn’t really consider Penn before he started considering it. [But] after he decided to come here, I decided to consider it a little bit, and I just really loved it. And I saw the opportunity to come play football, too.”
Junior defensive lineman Arthur D’Angelo used a different line of reasoning in informing his brother William — a rookie offensive lineman — why he should choose Penn.
The elder D’Angelo had heard about sprint football from his godfather telling him about his time playing for Princeton. He reached out to coach Bill Wagner in his junior year of high school, and a few years later he was trying to convince his brother to take the same path.
“Especially as a lineman, pickup football is never the same because you’re never going to wear the pads again after it’s over,” Arthur said. “You can go out and throw the football around, but we don’t have good hands, we’re not that fast and, not being big, we thought that experience was really going to stop at the end of high school.
“I kind of told [William] how great the team is, having that experience to put on the pads for four more years. I really thought he’d regret it if he decided to end his football career then, because once [he had] made the decision to go to another school, [he] wouldn’t have had that option to put the pads on again."
For the Lilleys, their time together with the Quakers will be the second time in which they have played on the same squad. Although the duo overlapped for three years at Boston College High School, the two only played one season of varsity football together in the fall of 2013. In contrast, this is the first year the D’Angelos have competed together.
“One of the coolest things about this was that my brother and I didn’t have a chance to play on the same football team ever before, because I went to public school,” Arthur D’Angelo said. “When he would have been the same age to come play on the same team as me, he moved to go to private school, so we never really got that opportunity.”
Wagner, now in his 46th season coaching at Penn, has seen plenty of pairs of brothers playing at the same time. In the case of the Marin family, he coached two generations of players — father Michael Marin, who graduated in 1977, and sons Jordan and Jason, College graduates in 2010 and 2013, respectively.
Having coached both of his brothers’ high school football team and played with them in a summer baseball league, Wagner understands the dynamic of coaching members of the same family at the same time.
“The oldest one is always the role model and sets the tone,” Wagner said. “The younger ones sometimes end up even being better in the end. It can happen.”
He added that it makes travel arrangements simpler for families wishing to see their sons play.
“It’s nice to not have one kid playing in another part of the country. This way, they can go to the games and see both of them,” Wagner said. “I’ve also over the years had brothers play here and also play at either Princeton or Cornell, and they played against each other, and the parents would have to switch sides at halftime.”
Because each set of brothers features one sibling on offense with the other defense, they inevitably come across each other during practice. When that happens, Wagner summed up the range of outcomes concisely.
“The oldest one always wins,” he said.
The younger brothers weren’t so quick to agree on with those exact words.
“Since he’s on defensive line and I’m on offensive line, we’ve gone against each other a few times, but there are a lot more defensive linemen than there are offensive linemen,” William said, adding that he treats his brother on the practice field as we would any other teammate. “He usually beats me, but he helps me afterwards.
"I expected it to have a lot more mockery than it does. He’s surprisingly helpful.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Brendan enjoys the occasional matchup with his tight end brother.
“Sometimes when we’re doing pass plays, I’ll cover him. It’s pretty fun, it gets me competitive. I like to say stuff to him after the play,” Brendan noted.
When asked if he trash-talked any other teammates, the younger Lilley said such talk was reserved for his older brother.
“You battle a little more than going against someone else," Brendan said. "Just because of the brotherly rivalry, it adds a little bit of extra flair to it."
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