A dream come true: Marching band members get engaged at Iowa State game

Photo courtesy of Scott Sewell

Right after the K-State Marching Band’s halftime show at the home football game against Iowa State on Nov. 25, the band paused in anticipation to play the Fight Song. But before that, Jillian Borel, marching band member and junior in secondary education, was called to the front of the field. Her boyfriend Justin Reilly, former marching band member and 2017 graduate in business and accounting, walked onto the field and got down on one knee, proposing to Borel. She said yes.

Borel said being proposed to after a halftime show was her dream.

“Band has been a part of my life since I was in fourth grade,” Borel said. “I’ve always thought that would be the coolest thing in front of all the people. … I didn’t want to tell [Justin] because I figured it would be impossible with K-State.”

Marching band is what brought Reilly and Borel together over two years ago.

“The first time we met was at a drumline camp — that’s how we got to know each other, through band and drumline,” Borel said. “He played one of the biggest bass drums, and I played one of the smallest bass drums when we started out. We officially met at a bass retreat at a camp and just had our first conversation, and the ball went rolling from there.”

Borel said being in marching band together gave them a lot of time to bond.

“When we weren’t dating, we were always together, because you’re constantly with the band, so that sparked some interest,” Borel said. “Then we started dating, and not only were we always together in band, but we were also always together just because we like each other.”

Reilly said they always did fun things together while at rehearsal.

“We’d park our bikes by each other for rehearsal and walk to and from rehearsal together,” Reilly said. “We’d go early and throw the football around, just things like that.”

Borel said she dreaded late practices a little less because she “knew he’d be waiting with the football.”

Reilly and Borel have been a couple for fourteen months.

Photo courtesy of the Borel family

Reilly said he learned about Borel’s dream proposal from her mom in July.

“I was thinking about it, and was like, ‘Well, if that’s her dream, then I’m going to make it happen,'” Reilly said.

Then, he said he contacted Frank Tracz, director of bands, about a week after speaking with Borel’s mother.

“I emailed Dr. Tracz, and I was like, ‘Hey, I know it’s a long shot, this is Jillian’s dream, do you think it’s possible?'” Reilly said. “He’s like, ‘Yeah, that’s definitely possible. Why don’t we meet for lunch?'”

After Tracz said yes to the idea, he said they had to wait and see what the football schedule would look like before settling other logistics.

“There’s a lot of things that go into this,” Tracz said. “But I said, ‘Let’s do it. You get the tickets, I’ll get you on the field, I’ll get the announcement. We’ll tell [K-State] Athletics so they have the cameras ready to go.'”

After the football season schedule was finalized, Reilly said he and Tracz decided on the Iowa State game, the final home game of the season. Reilly kept in touch with Tracz throughout the process.

“It wasn’t super hard, but it was kind of drawn out,” Reilly said. “I’m glad I started when I did, so once the day came, I knew what I was going to do.”

Tracz said Reilly was nervous about the proposal that day.

“It was pretty fun to watch him, because we snuck him downfield and hid him behind the football equipment at halftime and told him to come out and get ready, and he was shaking like a leaf,” Tracz said. “It was pretty cool. But they’re a great couple. It’s a happy ending, there’s no question.”

Though being proposed to after a marching band halftime show was her dream engagement, Borel did not know that it would happen on that day.

“Jillian didn’t know,” Tracz said. “She had no idea; nobody in the band did. In fact, the band’s so large people in the back were probably wondering what the heck is going on until they could see it on the jumbotron. It was worked out pretty well.”

Every part of the engagement was a surprise to Borel, all the way down to the ring. Borel said she, Reilly and her family went to look at rings in an antique store and did not know then that Reilly was picking out a ring that day.

Photo courtesy of Jillian Borel

“In the summer we went to an antique store, and it’s where my sister got her ring. We were like, “You know, let’s just stop in.” We had my dad — my dad’s a jeweler — and we were going to look at the rings. So we went in and I found this one, and I was like, ‘Oh, holy moley. I love it so much.'”

Borel said Reilly told her he was sorry that he probably would not be able to get her that particular ring because he was not prepared to buy a ring that day. However, Reilly said he put it on layaway right away.

“It worked perfectly, and she found this [ring],” Reilly said. “I’m so glad we did that, because we wouldn’t have found it other than that. … but I had to lie to her face many times about it.”

Borel said they are planning on getting married in summer 2018 and are considering a venue in Missouri.

“My mom grew up in Monett, Missouri, and her great-grandfather built a church there,” Borel said. “It’s your white chapel with beautiful stained glass windows and has clear land next to it, so you could put up tents. … It’s a really sentimental place for my family.

“We don’t really know yet,” Borel continued. “And it’s finals week, so I’m not really concentrated on that. I’ll probably do the majority of the planning this winter break.”

Tracz said this was not the first engagement he has helped organize within the marching band.

“I’ve been here 25 years, and I think this was the third one,” Tracz said.

However, not anyone can pull off a proposal on the football field.

“We get requests for this all the time, and most of the requests are for people who are not even in band,” Tracz said. “The answer is no. People like Jillian and Justin spent four years here, doing all kinds of good things for the university and for the band. They’ve earned it.”

I'm Dene Dryden, and I graduated in May 2020 with a Bachelor's of Arts in English. Before graduating, I worked at the Collegian for more than three years as a copy chief, managing editor and editor-in-chief. I also served a term on the Collegian Media Group Board of Directors. While at K-State, I also worked at Wildcat 91.1 FM. My cat Robyn is the light of my life, and I take compliments in the form of coffee.