COLUMBIA — When Tony Gillick moved his family from suburban Chicago to Lincoln, Neb., he could only come up with one rhetorical question.
“What was I thinking?”
It is no reflection on the city itself, but most likely a knee-jerk reaction for someone who was moving to a city that had been nothing more than the hometown of the rival Nebraska Cornhuskers. Gillick was a member of the Missouri football team from 1972-74 and had a hand in one of the rivalry’s most memorable moments.
The year was 1973 and, for the first three-quarters of the annual contest, defense had been on display. No. 12-ranked Missouri clung to a 13-6 lead late in the fourth quarter — astonishing when taking into account most of this Missouri team was present when the Tigers were thumped 62-0 in Lincoln in 1972.
A sophomore at the time, the loss was not too far from Gillick’s or any of his teammates’ minds when they took the field that day in 1973.
“It was an embarrassment,” Gillick said. “Anyone who was on that team that year had it in their minds but they didn’t mention it.”
An embarrassment that was followed up the next week by an upset of second ranked Notre Dame. It was a victory that gave the Tigers the confidence that they could beat anyone.
Fast forward to the following year: with the Cornhuskers down seven, they brought the score within two points on a Nebraska touchdown pass.
“I went up to one of our linebackers and said, ‘We’re going to beat Nebraska,’” former Tiger cornerback John Moseley said. “Then they drove down and scored.”
First-year head coach Tom Osborne sent his offense back out to go for the win, but Gillick reeled in a tipped pass to preserve a 13-12 Tiger victory. Fans swarmed him and his Tiger teammates after the game as the victory “ruined” the Cornhuskers’ season, according to Gillick.
Gillick, his family and some former teammates congregated behind the south end of Faurot Field. He served as graduate assistant for the football team following graduation and now owns Double Eagle Beverages, an Anheuser-Busch distributor in Lincoln.
A resident of Lincoln since 2003, he has taken a liking to Nebraska football. Co-workers and friends know of his ties to the rival Tigers but he makes it work. He cheers for Nebraska and wears red and white for “every game except the MU game.”
His interception is not something he brings up regularly. Though one of the highlights of his playing career came at the expense of the Cornhuskers, he still has not let it define him.
And he has even learned to like Lincoln.
“He played there (Missouri) obviously but he is such an infectious personality that he makes it work,” his oldest son Anthony Gillick said.