Father of Browns P Jamie Gillan to lead flyover at Bengals game

120619_flyover

It will happen in a flash. The roar of the engines will be heard and felt for a second or two, and then it will be time for some AFC North football.

For Browns punter Jamie Gillan, whose feet will be firmly planted on the grass at FirstEnergy Stadium, and his father Colin, who will whoosh by from the seat of a P-8A Poseidon aircraft, the moment will symbolize a cross-Atlantic journey that was years in the making.

"You just couldn't have written it," Colin said. "The opportunities have been incredible."

Sunday's is just the latest chapter in Jamie Gillan's improbable tale.

The rookie punter from Scotland who didn't know a thing about football less than 10 years ago will be on the sidelines for his 14th NFL game while his father, a longtime member of the Royal Air Force, will serve as the Squadron Leader of the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron ONE (VX-1) Pioneers for a pre-game flyover following Sunday's National Anthem.

Colin will be joined by Lieutenant Commander Eric Dube, Lieutenant Bryant Alsup, Lieutenant Dave Black and Lieutenant Tom Lightbody. The Squadron is based aboard Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, where the Gillans have called home since 2013.

"This will be a first for me by a long shot," Colin said. "I watched a couple of previous ones. It was incredible, actually. You see the crowd as it goes across the stadium, it's incredible."

Check out photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Bengals Sunday by team photographer Matt Starkey

Said Jamie: "It gets the goosebumps going. I know my granddad and granny get pretty emotional when the low jets come over. RAF has been in our family for years now."

Colin, who serves as the P-8A Poseidon Deputy Operational Test Director, grew up just like Jamie, the son of an RAF officer who went to boarding school. The Gillans "moved house" wherever Colin's work would take them every two to three years, but Jamie's life -- especially as he grew into a teenager -- remained relatively stable in boarding school, where he thrived as a student and a fly half on the rugby team. Still, he was tasked with making new friends and adjusting to different cultures every few years.

Jamie viewed each opportunity as a new challenge, one that made him to focus more on the "hellos" and less on the "goodbyes" he'd have to say every time he moved.

"I really enjoyed it. I'm thankful for my dad serving his country, our country," Jamie said. "I had to get used to it from a young age and making new friends, but I thought it was great. It made me cultured and I got pretty good at making friends fast. That was the only reason I chose to go to boarding school so I wasn't changing education too much. 

"It's been a fun life because of it. I wouldn't be standing here right now with you if he didn't take a job in America."

The opportunity for the big move came at a time when Jamie's rugby career was really starting to take off. Both he and his father believe he was headed down a path toward representing Scotland on the national team, but duty called overseas. Jamie noticed his father wasn't thrilled with his desk job in London, and the opportunity in Maryland would allow him to get back to what he loved most.

Jamie still remembers the call he got from his father the day he learned he was headed to the U.S. His reaction?

"Awesome," he said.

Initially, the Gillans planned to keep Jamie in his boarding school but ultimately decided to bring him and his sister, Mhairi, along. Colin called it a "tricky decision" at the time but chuckled when he said "I guess it worked out in the end."

"He wasn't scared of a challenge," Colin said. "That's for sure."

Jamie's story, of course, really kicks into overdrive at this juncture. He joined the Leonardtown High football team as a kicker and punter midway through his senior year, quickly earned the nickname "Scottish Hammer" and landed a last-second scholarship at Arkansas Pine-Bluff after the school posted on Facebook that it needed a kicker and his friend responded on his behalf with a link to his highlight reel.

Colin admitted he had no idea such a path even existed in the conventional sense, let alone the one Jamie forged.

"To be honest, I'm still an amateur when it comes to football," Colin said. "I'm still learning."

Colin and Jamie's mother, Dee, traveled to as many of Jamie's games as they could throughout his four years at Pine Bluff. It was an interesting adjustment getting used to watching their son, a star on the rugby field who was seemingly involved in every play, relegated to a role where he saw the field just a handful of times on a given day. 

Around Jamie's junior year, though, Colin started to believe there could be an even brighter future for his son in this strange, new game.

"I used to feel sorry for him. There was probably a lot more he could have done, more positions he could have tried," Colin said. "As time went on, he saw how well he was doing. We realized if it didn't work, he could always go back to (rugby). 

"He basically put all his eggs in the basket and that's where he is now."

Colin was with Jamie on the fateful day Jamie learned he'd made the Browns, beating out veteran Britton Colquitt after a back-and-forth competition throughout training camp. Colin was walking Jamie's dog when his son fielded the call from general manager John Dorsey, and "he was a Brown by the time I came back," Colin said.

Colin and Dee have been able to attend a handful of games throughout the season. Mhairi is back at in Scotland as a university student at Aberdeen, but she'll be in attendance for the Week 16 game against the Ravens. The Gillans didn't have a long trip to see Cleveland's memorable, Week 4 win in Baltimore -- a game Jamie wasn't needed all that much, but one that served as a nice capper to a September in which he earned AFC Special Teams Player of the Month. 

Colin hopes to be in his seat comfortably by the end of Sunday's first quarter after buzzing the top of FirstEnergy Stadium.

"We're really excited about it to be taking the squadron across FirstEnergy Stadium with Jamie down there. It will be fantastic," Colin said. "We're really looking forward to it and the rest of the crew is excited as well. It's going to be an incredible game."

Advertising