By their collective recollections, the Meile triplets have played more than 200 football games together, including pick-up sessions at home, since they were in second grade.
None of them will be more meaningful than their final official competition as members of the Union College football team.
Defensive lineman Bill Meile, wide receiver Matt Meile and offensive lineman Pete Meile will be among 20 seniors who will be honored on Saturday during the 111th meeting between the Dutchmen and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at noon on Frank Bailey Field.
At stake in the oldest collegiate football rivalry in New York will be the Dutchman Shoes Trophy, awarded to the winner of this historic rivalry since 1950. Union, according to its record book, leads the all-time series, 81-25-4, including last year’s thrilling 34-28 overtime win at East Campus Arena in Troy. According to RPI records, the series stands at 80-26-4 in Union’s favor.
Either way, it’s been a one-sided rivalry for the most part, until the Engineers elevated their program in the last two decades. In the last 16 meetings, each team has eight victories.
For the Meile triplets, Saturday’s game will be special for many reasons.
“It’s the last game of the year, and the last game of our careers,” said Bill Meile, who along with brother, Pete, is a Union captain. “And it’s against our biggest rival. It wouldn’t matter if we were 0-10 or 10-0.”
“Not only is this game against RPI, but it’s also our last game at home. It will be very special for all of the seniors,” said Pete Meile.
“What more could you ask than to end your career in a game like this with all the tradition,” added Matt Meile. “It’s the biggest game of the year for us.”
Although the Meile triplets began playing football at age 8, they had no idea they would someday participate in one of the country’s oldest football rivalries. They picked up the game from their father, Bill, who played collegiately at Maryland. Then, they all became standouts at Don Bosco Prep, in Ramsey, N.J., where they won four New Jersey state titles and went on to capture the 2009 national title.
Union head coach John Audino, who coached at Kean College in New Jersey before taking over at Union, kept an eye out on top New Jersey players over the years and recruited the trio to play for Union. He appreciated their versatility, enthusiasm and winning attitude.
“I started out as a running back and linebacker when I was in second grade,” said Bill Meile.
“I was the quarterback on that team,” said Pete Meile. “And Bill dropped the very last pass that I ever threw.”
Matt Meile began his career as an undersized defensive end. He’s now a receiver.
“We’ve always been very tight, and sports were always a big thing in our house,” said Bill Meile. “That’s all we ever talk about.”
They’ll have plenty to talk about for years to come about their careers at Union, but those stories will certainly be lighter if they go out with a win.
Although this won’t be his last “Shoes” game, junior defensive end Casey Muse appreciates the significance of the game.
“It’s been a frustrating year for us,” said Muse, one of the top tacklers for the 3-6 Dutchmen. “But we know that this is a very important day coming up. At one point, we thought we were going to have a very good year, but then we had all of those injuries on offense. Our defense still played great all year, and we’ve been nationally ranked in a couple of categories.
‘But no matter what has happened this year, we knew that everything always revolves around the Shoes game here. Everyone knows that this is special. The Shoes are an icon.”
Muse, from Lakeville, Conn., got a quick history of the series with RPI when he first game to Union.
“I had a buddy who has played here, and he told me all about it,” said Muse. “This game means so much to Union. We’ve won more than 70 percent of the games we’ve played with RPI, and none of us wants to be on the team that loses to them.”
RPI senior tight end Joe Cozzolino, a captain from Chatham, also understands the importance of Saturday’s game. The 4-5 Engineers have a chance to end the season at .500.
“When I first got here as a freshman, I know the rivalry got a little nasty, and there was some trash talk,” he said. “But I guess things have calmed down a little lately. But regardless, it’s still a rivalry. I don’t think the two teams are
really that friendly. It’s also a big deal to the alumni of both teams. This game is as big as it gets.
“We’re all looking forward to this game. Even though there are no playoff implications this year, it will be the biggest game of the year for both teams.”