The former Dobyns-Bennett High School standout has been the starting center all four games this season for the Miami Dolphins. After a collegiate career at Appalachian State, it’s his ninth NFL season and his second in Miami after spending the first seven with the San Francisco 49ers.
He started the first four games for the Dolphins in 2018 before torn triceps ended his season. He’s also suffered knee and leg injuries over his NFL career. He still has a true love for the game, easily seen with the way he continues to bounce back.
It has been a tough start to the season for the Dolphins, who are 0-4 heading into Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins (0-5). Kilgore remains optimistic things will get better with the youngest roster in the league that averages 25.2 years old and less than three years of NFL experience.
Kilgore finds himself a veteran amongst the young group.
DOES IT SEEM LIKE YOU’VE BEEN IN THE LEAGUE NINE YEARS?
“No, because it does fly by. Looking back on it the things I’ve been through, the big trade from San Francisco to here, I’ve been a part of many different teams, six head coaches, seven different offensive schemes, it’s pretty amazing. It doesn’t last very long and one day it’s going to come to an end. I’ve got to enjoy it while I can.”
AFTER GOING THROUGH WHAT YOU HAVE WITH INJURIES, WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE BACK ON THE FIELD?
“You’re going to face adversity whether it’s injuries, getting through the day with bumps and bruises, or picking up what your defender is going to be doing on Sunday. That’s the challenge of the game that I enjoy. It’s weird, but I enjoy putting myself through all this. Most people wouldn’t do that, but I enjoy putting myself on the line every day, beating myself up and seeing how far I can push myself. The older I get, the more my body hurts, but it’s fun with that competitive nature.”
YOU PLAYED THE COWBOYS A FEW WEEKS AGO. WHAT WAS THE CONVERSATION WITH JASON WITTEN?
“We talked before the game and I congratulated him on coming back and playing his 16th season. Working at Jason’s camp throughout the years, we’ve always had small talk. But, he brought up the year I played in the Super Bowl with the 49ers, it was the same year that he won the Walter Payton (NFL man of the year) award. It was crazy, here we were two guys from Northeast Tennessee standing side by side as the national anthem is playing before the Super Bowl. It was a cool experience.”
OBVIOUSLY IT HAS BEEN A ROUGH START TO THE SEASON, WHAT MAKES YOU OPTIMISTIC THE TEAM CAN TURN THINGS AROUND?
“It’s been tough. You never want to be in the situation the Miami Dolphins are in right now. That’s part of it, the fighting through adversity. You look at the schedule the first four games and they were all against playoff teams from the year before and the Super Bowl winners in New England. That’s not to make excuses.
“We’ve got to go out and play better than what we have. We’ve got such a young team, guys who are eager to get better and willing to put the work in. That’s motivating to me as a nine-year vet. They still want to compete no matter the situation. It’s a long season, too. Four weeks from now, we might be 4-4. Tables can turn quickly in this league. I believe the saying, ‘Any given Sunday.’ We all have a job to do and we have to do it better than we have been.”
HOW DOES YOUR TIME AT DOBYNS-BENNETT INFLUENCE YOU?
“Growing up in Kingsport and those Friday nights at J. Fred set the foundation for my future. Being part of that winning culture and being around great coaches was huge for me. It’s where I first had the love of the game, willing to go out and compete every day.
“Coach (Graham) Clark, he’s so competitive. He wants to go catch the biggest fish in the pond. He loves coaching ball and loves so much being a part of the game. I learned how to be a competitor and work hard. Joey Christian, he came to D-B my sophomore year and I had him as an offensive line coach for three years. The same coaching style he had then is the same he has now and it’s paying off with them undefeated right now.
“The whole Dobyns-Bennett family set the foundation for my future. It’s great coaches, great teachers, great teammates and friends, which have allowed me to go on to Appalachian State and go on and play in the NFL.”
HOW CLOSELY DO YOU KEEP UP WITH DOBYNS-BENNETT?
“I’m still really close with people within Kingsport city schools. I wish I was there more than I am. My wife and I still call the Tri-Cities home and in the offseason I like spending as much time there as I can. I do a lot of my workouts at the facility.
“There’s still a lot of connections. I talk to Joey on a regular basis as I do (assistant athletic director) Jimmy Burleson, Bo Burton, Brian Barrett. I love those guys to death. That school is always a part of my life. Sometime when I hang up my cleats, I want my kids to be a part of that program.”
HOW DO YOU LIKE LIVING IN SOUTH FLORIDA?
“South Florida is definitely nice. I’ve been fortunate to play for a pair of the NFL’s most historical teams with San Fran and Miami and both places are wonderful in their own right. Being able to live in the Bay Area and South Florida, they’re the coolest experiences anyone could ever have.
“My wife and I are from Kingsport and that’s one day where we want to be. Both of our families are there. There’s something about the hills of Tennessee and over at Boone, North Carolina where I went to college, it’s special to me. I’ve spent a lot of time away from our families. I do look forward to a time when we’re back with them on a daily basis.”