May 12, 2010
MADISON, Wis. -- Barry Gill’s journey to the University of Wisconsin began more than 15 years ago.
Greg Gill, the oldest of the five Gill brothers, earned four varsity letters in track and field at Wisconsin from 1995-1998. Greg was an All-American in the decathlon for the Badgers in 1996. While Greg was running laps around the track, younger brother Barry was running around the playground.
Barry’s next oldest brother, Pat Gill, also attended Wisconsin. Pat played football for the Badgers from 1995-1998, redshirting the 1995 season before going on to letter in 1998 and graduate from the UW. Barry, meanwhile, was graduating from elementary school.
Next came Ben Gill. Ben was also a four-year letterwinner in track and field for the Badgers from 1999-2002 and, like the family’s eldest brother, competed in the decathlon for the UW. By this time, Barry was attending Xavier High School in his native Appleton, Wis.
Eleven years after the first Gill competed for UW, it was finally Barry’s turn to don cardinal and white as he was recruited to lace up his track spikes for the Badgers. After redshirting the 2006 season, Barry has primarily raced in the longer sprints, although he has competed in the decathlon like his brothers as well.
“I definitely had a strong family tie to UW because my brothers all enjoyed the university,” Gill said. “There are a lot of great schools out there, but when I came to Wisconsin it seemed like a puzzle piece that fit just right.
“All three of my older brothers have strong athletic ties here. Even though they never really pushed me in any direction, I think they favored UW over any other school for me.”
Barry will also become the fourth Gill brother to earn his degree from the University of Wisconsin when he graduates with majors in history and legal studies this weekend.
Gill is one of four current Badger seniors who are the latest in a line of family members to graduate from the UW. Fellow seniors Tyler Holland, Jenny Soceka and Nick Engen also followed their families’ roots to Wisconsin.
Tyler Holland became the third Holland to suit up for the Badger football team when he came to the UW in 2006, following both his father, Louis A. Holland, and his brother, Louis Jr., in attending Wisconsin.
“Since I was a little kid, we were always coming to UW Badger games,” Holland said. “A lot of tradition runs in my family as far as the University of Wisconsin goes. Playing for Wisconsin was definitely a dream of mine.”
Several factors influenced Holland’s decision to choose the University of Wisconsin, but his family ties to the university and the chance to play Big Ten football tipped the scale.
“I was open to a lot of different schools,” Holland said. “I was really looking for the social and academic aspects of school as well as athletics, but there’s nothing like Big Ten football. That was definitely the separator as far as some of the other schools I was looking at. I wanted to see if I could make it in Big Ten football.
“My family was excited for me, but my parents didn’t want to push me to go here. They took me around to look at a bunch of different schools. Deep down, I think they really wanted me to go to the University of Wisconsin. At the end of the day, after growing up ‘On, Wisconsin!’ it just felt like the right fit.”
Tyler’s father was a halfback for the Badgers from 1960-1964, and his career included a trip to the 1963 Rose Bowl game. Brother Louis Jr. played football at UW in 1985.
“There was definitely a lot of weight on my shoulders as far as upholding the Holland tradition here,” Holland said. “It turned out really great though, and I’m happy with my experience at the University of Wisconsin.”
Track and field star Jenny Soceka and golfer Nick Engen also carried on family traditions in becoming Badgers. Both followed their parents’ footsteps to the University of Wisconsin.
Soceka’s father graduated from Wisconsin in 1969 with a degree in Pharmacy; he practiced as a pharmacist for 15 years before becoming a real estate agent and landlord.
“It means a lot to my dad that I chose to follow in his footsteps and attend UW,” Soceka said. “I am the youngest of four kids, and I’m the only one who decided to attend UW. I wanted to attend UW because I have always been a Badger fan and wanted to become a Badger athlete. I knew I would be in good hands at UW.
“My dad is proud to be a UW alum and even prouder that I am one, too. As a businessman, my dad is also very proud of me for earning a degree in Business from the University of Wisconsin.”
Like Soceka, Engen took the path traveled by his parents in choosing Wisconsin. Engen’s father graduated from UW in 1979 with a business degree, and his mother, an education major, is a member of the UW Class of 1981.
“My parents never really pushed it on me to come here, but by seeing their success, I think that it made me always respect what the UW has done for them,” Engen explained. “It definitely had an influence on my decision.”
Soceka and Engen join Holland and Gill in relishing their experience as Badgers.
“It was pretty cool to follow in my parents’ footsteps and attend UW,” Engen said. “I definitely had my parents’ support, and I really enjoyed my time here. I grew as a student and a person, and I truly believe that my experience here will help to get me to where I want to be in my career.”
The post-graduation plans for these four Badgers are even more impressive than their athletic accomplishments.
Following the conclusion of her collegiate track and field career, Soceka plans to use her marketing and management degree while working in Madison.
Meanwhile, Engen, who will graduate with a degree in accounting, plans to attend graduate school at UW before moving to Denver to work for KPMG, which is a global network of professional firms providing audit, tax and advisory services.
Holland will graduate from UW with finance, investments and banking degree as well as a real estate and urban land economics degree from the School of Business. He plans to use the lessons he learned as a Badger as he heads into the work force.
“I just got a job with JP Morgan Private Wealth Management,” Holland said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I’m very excited and just lucky to have a job right now. The biggest things that I can take [from football] to my job are definitely time management skills, along with organizational skills, teamwork and competitiveness, especially in the finance industry.”
Meanwhile, Gill, who studied history and legal studies at UW, plans to continue following in his brothers’ footsteps as he goes on to law school at Marquette University.
“Two of my older brothers are attorneys and they both went to Marquette,” Gill said. “I checked out a bunch of schools, and for me, Marquette was a great fit. I really like their approach to the way they teach things. It seemed like a new and good next step for me.
“I think hard work and dedication are two things that I’ll take from athletics that will really help me to achieve my future goals.”
No matter where they end up, or what they go on to accomplish, these four student-athletes are undoubtedly Badgers for life.
“I’ve had so many great memories and opportunities as a Badger,” Soceka said. “It means a lot to me that I am graduating with a degree from the University of Wisconsin. It is a great school academically, it has a great athletic program, and it has a beautiful campus. I am proud to have earned a degree from this school.”