Thursday, May 8, 2014 | 2 a.m.
If doctors were correct in their diagnosis, being this big should have led to an early death for twins Mark Anthony and Mark Gil Gacutan.
Instead, being this big will lead to college football scholarships.
They were 5-foot-8, nearing 200 pounds and wearing size 13 shoes as third-graders. So their mother, who they had already grown taller than, sought medical advice to see whether the growth was normal. Nobody in the family was this big or tall; not even close.
Doctors said the twins had gigantism, claiming X-rays showed excess growth hormone in their brain. They’d be dead by age 16.
Turns out the diagnosis was wrong. The twins were big, the biggest at their school regardless of grade. But they were also healthy.
Now, months away from entering their senior year at Las Vegas High, the offensive linemen have used the size to make a name for themselves in football. Both stand 6-foot-5. Mark Anthony is 320 pounds; Mark Gil is 315. They wear size 18 shoes.
Despite not playing football until they entered high school — they easily exceeded weight limits of youth leagues, and Mom feared they’d be injured — the twins have blossomed into legitimate Division-I recruits. Coaches from more than a dozen universities have made visits this spring to evaluate them, and Weber State was the first to offer scholarships this week.
“I’m not going to lie. That first offer was a big-time relief,” Mark Anthony said.
Recruiters are intrigued because the Gacutans have played just a handful of games and haven’t developed many bad habits.
They were promoted to the varsity team as sophomores but didn’t exactly dominate. They went in and out of the starting lineup and were confused on certain plays.
Everything from learning how to put on shoulder pads to developing a mean streak had to be taught. They are still far from finished products.
“Our coaches told us to have amnesia and forget the last play,” Mark Anthony said. “I can’t overthink things. Once I cross the (sideline) onto the field, just play.”
They had no intentions of joining the team when they arrived at orientation for incoming ninth-graders. They looked like football players — about 6-foot-4, 290 pounds — but had limited knowledge of the sport. Coaches quickly convinced them of their potential, which now includes receiving a free college education.
“That was 290, all fat,” Mark Gil said. “Must be our mom’s good cooking.”
Three years later, the fat has mostly turned into muscle. They each weigh more than 300 pounds, but it’s a slender look similar to that of other elite offensive line recruits.
They also lacked the killer instinct, especially considering they were significantly bigger than the players they lined up against. Learning how to play with an edge has been easier said than done. They were never aggressive children, known by friends for being gentle with carefree attitudes.
“They need to get a little more physical, which we are working toward,” Las Vegas coach James Thurman said. “It’s just reps. They never played until they got here, which is a plus in the recruiting process. They have nothing but upside. They are going to get better every year.”
Trevor Swenson, the Las Vegas quarterback, has been close friends with the twins since they were in the same class at Iverson Elementary School. The Gacutans play the tackle position on each side of the offensive line, protecting Swenson from the pass rush.
“We got them turned into beasts,” Swenson said. “It helps having those two big tackles to keep (defenders) out of my face.”
The twins were born two hours apart, Mark Gil first. Mark Anthony has a mole near his eye, which is one the lone noticeable differences in appearance. And they each answer to Mark Gacutan.
“Football has brought us together more,” Mark Gil said. “We don’t fight with each other anymore. It’s all about (getting better) at football.”
The Weber State offer could be the first of many. They’d like to play together at the next level but know things don’t always go according to plan.
They, after all, were supposed to be battling gigantism at this stage of their life. Not picking a college.