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Just like Nebraska football players have done for years as they leave the Memorial Stadium locker room, Warren Gillis touches a weathered horseshoe every morning for good luck as he comes down the stairs of his family's home in Boston.

The reason for that goes back to before Gillis was born.

The April 24, 1998, edition of the Lincoln Journal Star warned readers to "expect an invasion of Bostonians" when Boston native Frederick Gillis III married Shelly Holland of Norfolk the following Sunday.

The story detailed a melding of Boston Catholics and Norfolk Methodists, an entourage of more than 80 East Coast guests coming to Lincoln for the wedding, a governor's proclamation and men in kilts.

The wedding was the day after NU's Red-White Spring Game, and that wasn't a coincidence: Frederick Gillis planned it to coincide with the game and bought 100 tickets so his guests could attend the scrimmage.

"The deal was that everybody said they would come down to Lincoln, but there better be football involved," he said.

And this weekend, more than 20 years later, football again brought him back to Lincoln — this time with his son, Warren.

The 14-year-old defensive lineman will attend Xaverian Brothers High School in Boston in the fall and this weekend was at the Friday Night Lights camp and Saturday's Adidas OL/DL Pipeline camp for high school athletes.

"It was a big learning experience," Warren Gillis said. "It was much different than high school football practice. The coaches know a lot more and they're able to translate things better to us."

During the camps, Warren Gillis and roughly 300 other high school football players worked closely on technique and drills under the guidance of the NU coaching staff and players, including defensive line coach Tony Tuioti.

"You know he's a lineman coach," Gillis said. "He's got a lot of nuggets of information for everyone to learn. Everyone tried to do what he told us, because he was so good at his coaching; we knew he knew what he was doing."

After growing up in the backyard of the Patriots, Bruins and Red Sox, Frederick Gillis said he admired Nebraska's devotion to college football.

"There's a purity to football here, and that's because pro sports are about money. We once went to a preseason New England Patriots game and there's a drunk woman behind us who's already had six cigarettes that day screaming at Drew Bledsoe, calling him a piece of crap," he said. "That's not the same here. I go to a game here and turn on the radio and it's people wishing the boys do well."

Warren Gillis and his two sisters were raised to embrace their Nebraska roots and have grown up as die-hard football fans, according to their dad.

"Last year my wife and I offered to either take them to Rome or a Husker football game, and they chose the football game," Frederick said. "It's probably about the only thing they've ever been unified on."

And embracing those roots is important to Frederick, who makes sure his family visits relatives in Nebraska at least once a year. 

"I got married in a kilt. My father and I walked three miles to the church on my wedding day, because it's a Scottish wedding tradition," Frederick said. "Our family heritage is part of what makes us who we are. I don't know how to not embrace that."

And Warren Gillis is eager to experience the best Nebraska has to offer.

"He's been jonesing for Valentino's since we got here," Frederick said. "His reward for the hard work at camp is a shower and a trip to the buffet."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7214 or eclopton@journalstar.com.

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