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Pilconis Brothers Enjoying Life at Harvard
Pottsville, PA - When Ryan and Steve Pilconis had to decide where they were going to attend college, they immediately considered attending an Ivy League school.
Sure, the prestige mattered and all the doors an Ivy League degree opens was a factor, but the two brothers were set on getting an outstanding college education and playing football for a successful program.
They have found it at Harvard, where Ryan, a psychology/business major, will enter his senior year this fall, and Steve, an economics major, will be a junior.
Ryan, a 6-6, 290-pound offensive lineman, has enjoyed every bit of the Harvard lifestyle and Steve, a 6-5, 200-pound wide receiver, sometimes has to remind himself he’s a student at one of the world’s renowned institutions of higher learning.
But they will also tell you that the nerdy stereotype often applied to the Ivy League is way off base. They have learned firsthand the rigors of a Division I college football schedule, combined with fierce academics.
“We do have to work against that stereotype a lot,” Ryan said. “But we draw kids that could have gone to several big Division I schools, but wanted to get a quality education. It’s a horrible stereotype because we play a high quality of football and we’re increasing the number of kids going to the pros.
“Our program is on the upswing and it’s the same throughout the league.”
In 2007, Harvard claimed the Ivy League title with a 7-0 league record that was capped by a 37-6 thrashing of rival Yale in front of 57,248 spectators at Yale Bowl in New Haven, Conn.
Ryan’s idea of the rivalry changed his freshman year when Harvard traveled to take on Yale. He said it’s as intense a game as the yearly Michigan-Ohio State showdown.
“There wasn’t enough room for the freshmen in the locker room so we had to sit outside,” Ryan explained. “There were Yale fans walking past cursing us - it was definitely something you wouldn’t expect to see at a high profile Ivy League event. It just goes to show how it’s a great football rivalry.”
Both Pilconis brothers are hoping to duplicate the championship season again and add a 12th Ivy League championship trophy to the school’s trophy case.
The brothers are currently working in Boston, but continue to take part in non-mandatory conditioning drills in preparation for the season.
Steve is hoping to bounce back from a sports hernia that limited his playing time as a sophomore; Ryan is working hard in an effort to gain some exposure to professional football scouts.
Both said their experience has been well worth it.
“It was a culture shock coming from Pottsville High,” Steve said. “It (Harvard) lives up to its name. The academics are challenging and you definitely have to be organized to balance football and school. Most kids come here and have trouble adjusting, but after this past year, I felt I was able to get things done in the classroom.”
Both agree the city of Boston provides an outstanding opportunity for numerous activities and social events.
With at least 30 colleges in the greater metropolitan area, plus a throng of various eateries, Boston has been perfect for both.
“I don’t think I’d want to be anywhere else,” Steve said. “The social life is not what you’re going to find at a state school, but we try to make the most of it because there’s a ton of college kids up here.”
When it comes to education, Ryan believes Harvard has exceeded his expectations of making him a smarter person.
“Pottsville prepared me well,” Ryan said. “But you just can’t replicate the level of competition with the students at Harvard. There’s a great emphasis on discussions and it really enhances your skills for making arguments. That’s the goal of a liberal arts college - to enhance your critical thinking and it’s not just a focus on one certain tract.”
The Crimson opens the 2008 season when it hosts Holy Cross Friday, Sept. 19.
It’s a rather unusual day for a home opener, but both Pilconis brothers know full well they and their teammates will be ready for the Crusaders.
They also believe they’ll be ready to begin defense of their Ivy League crown a week later at Brown.
“There’s a lot of parity in the Ivy League,” Ryan said. “As you go around and get recruited, you end up meeting the same kids at each school. The talent level is very similar throughout the league, so you really have to have a lot of character and we have that at Harvard.”
Pilconis brothers enjoying life at Harvard
By Tim Demko, The Reading Eagle (PA)