Although twin brothers and seniors Ryan and Eric Whitehead did not play on the same football team until high school, they have now played together for nine years.
The twins play for Elon University’s football team; Ryan is a linebacker and Eric is an offensive lineman.
“I made the decision that I wanted to come to Elon first,” Ryan said. “Eric kind of went through what was best for him, and he also said Elon. It worked out great because we only had one car.”
But Eric said his college application process almost led him to a different school.
“I thought it would be cool to go to different things like maybe play against each other,” Eric said. “This worked out for the best and I’m very fortunate I get to play with my brother.”
For most students going to college, the transition can be difficult. For the Whitehead twins, they said the hardest part was having to share a room for the first time since second grade.
“We both know each other pretty well,” Ryan said. “We’re both familiar with how we live. One of us tends to be neater, and one of us tends to be the messier one.”
But that didn’t stop them from fighting like most brothers.
“I wanted to switch roommates after freshman year, but our mom made us stay,” Eric said. “After 19 years, I get tired of it.”
This isn’t out of character for the siblings. They both said when they’re home for breaks, they try to spend time away from each other. Eric said Ryan tends to keep to himself at home, to which Ryan answered back, “It’s not being a loner, it’s called having a Netflix addiction.”
Despite the occasional feud, the Whitehead family is brought together by football. The brothers said their parents have been extremely supportive of their athletic endeavors.
The twins grew up in Virginia, making it easy to see why the majority of the Whitehead household are Redskins fans. Eric said he kept his family in mind when picking which team he would decide to root for.
“My granddad used to coach at Lehigh Pennsylvania. … The field is named after him and the Eagles used to practice there,” Eric said. “So, I was like, ‘Oh, the Eagles are practicing on my grandfather’s field, why not root for that team?’”
When Ryan expressed his disapproval for Eric’s support of the Eagles, all Eric said was, “Kiss the ring, baby.”
The Whiteheads come from a competitive family. Eric said this can be negative when he and Ryan play against each other in practices. However, he said knowing there will always be someone to compete against provides extra motivation during practices and spring camps.
The brothers are redshirt-seniors, meaning they have played football at Elon for the past five years. Ryan has played in games since his second year. This season, he has played in eight of the Phoenix’s 10 games, getting five tackles in his time on the field.
Eric made his debut on head coach Tony Trisciani’s offensive line, this year.
Trisciani has said from the start that his offensive line was going to be new, and he would focus on training them. Eric is one of 17 offensive linemen that Trisciani has worked into the rotation.
Last Saturday, Nov. 9, was Elon’s last home game as well as Senior Day. Including the Whiteheads, the Phoenix celebrated its 13 graduating members.
When thinking about graduation, Ryan said he is in disbelief.
“It probably won’t hit me until we start running down that hill,” Ryan said. “We didn’t know if we were coming back last year, so we had that same feeling again last year. It’s definitely going to be a crazy feeling.”
Eric said his final game at Rhodes Stadium will also be meaningful for him.
“When that clock hits zero, that will be ‘Oh snap, that’s our last game at this place… we played for the past five years,’” Eric said.
As the brothers graduate at the end of the fall semester, they said the future is on their minds.
“I’ll be done here in a few weeks, and then I start working in Virginia,” Ryan said.
For Eric, he said he is interested in becoming a teacher but will also look for ways to stay involved in football.
“I didn’t want to be a teacher. I wanted to be a personal trainer at first,” Eric said. “But I didn’t feel satisfied; I really wanted to make an impact on people’s lives. I want to be around football for as long as I can.”
After spending their whole lives around one another, Ryan said he’s ready for some time away from his brother.
“I can’t wait. I can’t hide my smile,” Ryan said. “Obviously, he’s my best friend. But it’s going to be interesting.”
Eric said he’s going to miss his brother.
“I mean, I guess after a few weeks of him being gone, I’m going to be down here. I’ll miss him a little bit,” Eric said, as Ryan mouthed, “He will.”