Gilberts form family line for Glacier Knights

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Glacier Knights offensive linemen Tom Gilbert (right) and his son Dan Gilbert watch the defense in action as the Knights take on the Missoula Phoenix on Saturday afternoon at Legends Stadium.

Dan Gilbert admits it was a little weird at first.

The sight of his 52-year-old father standing along side him on the same football team took some getting used to.

"You're used to playing with a bunch of young guys," said Dan, a 2010 Glacier High School graduate and starting left tackle for the Glacier Knights. "Then you look [across the huddle] and see your dad and just say ‘wow.'"

Talk about a family line.

Dan, 19, and his father Tom Gilbert were the bookends of the Knights' offensive line for most of 2011. They took the field together for perhaps the last time Saturday, with Dan playing left tackle and Tom holding down the same position on the right side.

"I feel young when I'm with all these young kids," Tom said after a 46-14 loss to the Missoula Phoenix.

"But he reminds me all the time that I'm not young."

It was Tom's second season with the Knights, who finished the season with 2-6 record in the Rocky Mountain Football League's Northern Division.

He first played with the team in 2009 after a good deal of arm twisting by a former coach. It was a season that resulted in the team's only playoff appearance.

But Tom injured his neck in early 2010 while helping Dan prepare for the Class AA state wrestling tournament in Billings. Dan - who now stands at about 6-3 and 310 pounds - would go on to place second in the state heavyweight division while his father would sit out the 2010 Glacier Knights' football season.

"He wasn't expecting me to whoop him," Dan quipped.

Tom's opportunity to return to the game came in 2011 after Dan began attending practices with the Knights.

"At first I thought ‘man, I'm 52,'" said Tom, who's listed at 6-foot-2 and 285 pounds. "I mean, how old is too old?"

Tom was eventually persuaded to return to the team.

But he couldn't play left tackle, the position he mastered as far back as 1980 when he was a member of the now-defunct Long Island State 49ers' conference championship team.

Dan had already earned the job.

After settling in on the right side of the offensive line, it didn't take Tom long to show he could still play the game. Any thoughts that he was too old for the gridiron were thrown out during the Knights' second game against the Clark Fork Rush when Tom leveled an opposing player.

"He was just giving me the knuckles saying ‘all right dad!,'" Tom recalls.

Tom says his son - the second oldest of eight children - has gotten stronger and faster in the past year. Admittedly, it isn't because of any lessons passed down from father to son.

Tom says he likes to let coaches do the teaching. Dan remembers a time when his father tried to teach him blocking techniques prior to his freshman year of football at Flathead High School.

The techniques seemed a little archaic, Dan recalls thinking.

"I'm like, ‘man this stuff is outdated,'" Dan laughs.

"No one does this stuff anymore."

Tom said he's learned a thing or two since returning to the game. Despite his age, he showed Saturday that he still has the speed and conditioning to make a big play. He chased down a Missoula runner and shoved him out of bounds to prevent a touchdown late in the first half.

"I just kicked in the afterburners," he said. "But I don't know where the afterburners came from."

Dan, who isn't sure if he'll return to the team next season, said it's been a memorable experience through-and-through.

"It's a lot of fun," Dan said. "Not a lot of people can say they play semi-professional football with their dad."

Offensive line coach, starting center and new team owner Jared Taylor has enjoyed playing between the father-son tandem. He said Tom brought a lot of maturity and leadership to the squad.

And his thoughts on Dan?

"He is very smart and very well parented, so to speak," Taylor said.

 

 

 

Glacier Knights offensive lineman Dan Gilbert (69) squares off against a Missoula Phoenix defender during their game on Saturday at Legends Stadium.

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