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Football...s Kilpatrick, Mancuso Quietly Set Records

By Albert Ni

The end of October marked the close of a respectable season for MIT football in which they managed three wins and a fourth place finish in the seven team Boyd Division of the New England Football Conference (NEFC). It also marked the end of an era, and the beginning of another, as numerous Institute records were set, mostly by senior wide receiver Thomas J. Kilpatrick ’06 and quarterback Richard A. Mancuso ’09.

After a fourth consecutive solid campaign, Kilpatrick established himself as the most prolific receiver in MIT history. His career totals of 146 receptions for 2182 yards shatter the old marks of 118 receptions and 1633 yards. Kilpatrick also walks away from Engineer football with records for the most receiving yards in a season (971 in 2003), and fittingly, the most receiving yards per game in both a season and over the course of a career. His records are a testament to the consistent high level of play he has displayed game in and game out over his four seasons.

With Kilpatrick capping off a brilliant career, 2005 felt like a changing of the guard, thanks to the emergence of Rick Mancuso. After missing the beginning of the season due to injury, Mancuso was unable to make his Tech debut until the fourth quarter of the third game. By the end of the season, he was already the owner of nearly every major Institute single game and single season passing mark. Mancuso set Tech’s single season passing mark with 1,587 yards, as well as the single game mark with 387 yards against Nichols College, shattering the old record of 291 yards. In that game, he also completed 25 passes, an MIT single game record, and had four touchdown passes, tying a record.

The individual accomplishments for both players are indisputably impressive, but both are quick to deflect praise and preach team goals, proof of the team-oriented mindset instilled by Coach Dwight Smith.

“We had something Coach Smith said all year, which was that we had to win our individual one on one records,” Mancuso said. “Breaking a record is just everybody on the team winning their one on one battle.”

“The records mean a lot, but I like to emphasize football as a team sport,” said Kilpatrick. “A lot of credit goes to my teammates, I’ve played with five quarterbacks and a lot of credit goes to the QB’s, linemen, and all the other guys.”

Kilpatrick played in 2001, 2002, and 2003 before electing to go to Japan last year. While attrition is generally high due to the demanding academics at MIT, rejoining the team this year was a no-brainer for him.

“When I think back, I’ve played with some great players, and these guys have been some of my closest friends,” Kilpatrick said. “I’m real glad to have been a part of it.”

Mancuso echoed this sentiment. “I’m just glad Tom came back to get his fourth year,” Mancuso said, “He could have just said ‘I played my years here, and I’m done.’”

While Kilpatrick was in the starting lineup from day one, the fate of Mancuso’s season was up in the air due to an injury suffered in high school. Knowing the hard work put into rehabilitation made the season’s successes all the sweeter for Mancuso, “I feel like I’ve been given what athletes dream of, that’s a second chance.”

“Rick did a great job this year,” remarked Kilpatrick. “He got hurt real bad his senior year in high school, and I was afraid he wasn’t going to be able to come back this year. We had some injuries in the running game, putting even more pressure on him.”

All that pressure seemed to bring out the best in Mancuso, especially in his 387-yard, four touchdown game against Nichols College. This performance earned him a Boston Globe Gold Helmet award, arguably the region’s top weekly honor in football, making him only the third Gold Helmet recipient in Tech history, and first in the last 10 years. He also earned a mention as a Division III National Player of the Week by the Football Gazette and NEFC and ECAC Offensive Player of the Week honors.

“He was probably the most accurate passer I’ve played with, with a great field sense,” Kilpatrick said. “Just being around him you could tell he had played a lot of football and had a good feel for the game. I’m happy for him, that he was able to break all those records.”

Conversely, the impact that seniors like Kilpatrick had on the team was not lost on the freshman quarterback.

“We just followed suit with what [the seniors] told us needed to be done, and we just went out and played hard,” Mancuso said.

While in general, members of the student body may not quite understand the rigors of playing football, they certainly can appreciate the difficulty of the curriculum, and the fact that everybody attending the Institute needs to buckle down and study more than once in a while to succeed academically. This difference between MIT athletes and the athletes at many other schools is not lost on opposing teams.

“We’ve always been a target for the other teams because we’re a brand name,” remarked Kilpatrick, “But I’ve always welcomed that, always enjoyed that, making them feel bad when we beat them.”

Both Kilpatrick and Mancuso have high hopes for the future of the team, but noted that players have to stick around.

“My guess, my hope, is [Mancuso] will be able to lead the team to some winning seasons. That’s really the goal, to return to the form we had in the late nineties,” Kilpatrick said. “Attrition is a problem in any Division III football program without scholarships. The young guys have to stick around and work hard in the offseason, but certainly there is potential there. We had a lot of good freshmen step it up this year.”

“We have to have people stay around,” Mancuso said. “People have to be enthusiastic. They gotta realize we’re not going to have the numbers that the other teams have, so we probably gotta put more effort in than the other teams in the league.”

Still, all in all, simply talking to both made it obvious that for them, MIT football was about having fun, competing, and enjoying the camaraderie of being on a team.

“It’s a small, tight-knit group,” Mancuso said. “I wouldn’t pick one guy there that I wouldn’t want to be my brother outside of football, even.”

“I’m real thankful to MIT for continuing to have a program,” said Kilpatrick, “And I’m thankful to Coach Smith for giving me the chance to play.”

The football program is thankful for the way both Kilpatrick and Mancuso have excelled.