MOVILLE, Iowa | Twins Levi and Landan Paulsen drive past my house at dawn on Wednesday, as they've done thousands of times, on their way to the Woodbury Central High School weight room.
They share a car this day, not a moped, not a bike.
I arrive and walk into the weight room with these mountainous sons of Dan and Michelle Paulsen, of Moville. Both boys greet me by name. Levi grabs a dumbbell as we enter the facility, using it to prop open the door.
The Paulsens sign national letters of intent 15 minutes later to play football at the University of Iowa. Their signatures ensure full-ride scholarships for both, a collective $200,000 package that will open doors for these student-athletes to the worlds of higher education and Big Ten Conference football.
Prior to their signing, the twins talk up the Woodbury Central High School jazz band. You may find this surprising. I don't.
"This is our first competition of the year," Landan says. "We play at 2:30 today at Morningside."
"Both of us have solos on trombone," Levi says, finishing his twin brother's thought, a common occurrence for them.
Their signing-day press conference, like their clothing, their food, their senior portraits, comments and thoughts, is a shared occasion. Landan, a lefty, has Levi move one chair to his right, so the boys can sign their letters simultaneously and not knock elbows.
In a profile on WC's "Big Boys" for an edition of Siouxland LIFE devoted to twins four years ago, Dan and Michelle take me back to the boys' birth on Oct. 10, 1996. Landan tips the scales at 6 pounds 6 ounces and enters the world 12 minutes before Levi.
The beginning and the end nearly collide for baby Levi. His umbilical cord is prolapsed and he aspirates fluid, forcing his parents to have him baptized immediately. Levi, who weighs 7 pounds, 5 ounces, flies that night from the hospital in Aberdeen, S.D., to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Sioux Valley Hospital in Sioux Falls. He stays there for a month.
It takes two weeks for Levi to gain strength to breathe on his own. His physical development catches up to that of his brother by age 2.
They've been inseparable -- and nearly indiscernible -- ever since. As second-graders they tussle for a state peewee wrestling title, the last time they battle each other, formally.
These behemoth buddies rule football field and wrestling mat for Woodbury Central. They make the weight room a second home, their first being a white house with black trim on Terrtam Street, where Michelle sits at the kitchen table and budgets $1,000 per month, on groceries.
Twin towers, they now measure 6 feet 6 inches. They had bulked up to 330 pounds before trimming down to 285 pounds to compete in the heavyweight class for their senior wrestling campaign. Neither has been beaten this season.
Levi wrestles in the Class 1A sectional meet at Ida Grove, Iowa, on Saturday. Landan, who finished second in Class 1A at heavyweight last year, plays tuba on Friday and Saturday in an honor band festival at Iowa State University. He won't wear his Hawkeye colors there. Not this week, at least.
Shortly after signing national letters of intent, the twins prep for their first jazz band festival of the 2015 season. Both have a pair of trombone solos for the Woodbury Central jazz band, a musical unit that has placed in the state's top 5 in Class 1A in each of the past three years. The Paulsens have played integral roles in each of those seasons -- Landan on trombone, Levi, on percussion, vibraphone and trombone.
At the press conference, the twins talk about about weights and size and academics and their admiration for the University of Iowa's ability to turn out offensive linemen. As they speak, my thoughts turn to former Hawkeye Julian Vandervelde, a lineman from Davenport, Iowa.
Vandervelde was called a "Renaissance man" in the Big Ten four years ago, just as capable of singing "The Phantom of the Opera" solos as he was in protecting his quarterback.
Vandervelde was drafted in 2011 and has been a member of the Philadelphia Eagles ever since.
While I don't foresee the Paulsen twins singing "Phantom" or playing in the jazz band at Iowa, I won't bet against it. These mountainous men have a knack for surprising people.
"They bring a lot of energy, enthusiasm and a work ethic you'd expect," their coach tells me, noting their success is a product of getting after it then keeping after it, often on cold mornings like this, before sunup.
"They put in a lot of time," he adds.
That quote isn't from the football coach, the wrestling coach or the supervisor of the weight room, the place that opened doors for two boys who sign Iowa scholarship offers in unison on Wednesday.
The comment comes from Lucas Peterson, their band director.