Community MVP Michael McKillop

By Reid L. Walmark

Mike McKillop has carved out a reputation as the driving force behind the production that has become Ellington/Somers co-op football games — a mix of pomp, pageantry and the unexpected — known for canon blasts accentuating touchdowns and a game ball once being delivered to the field by a parachuter to name a few of the highlights.


But of all the special touches he has brought to game day for the Knights, McKillop, of Ellington, will be remembered best for a solemn tribute he spearheaded to celebrate the life of a former football player who died tragically this summer. So says his partner in creating the entertainment that surrounds the team, delighting many who follow Ellington/Somers.


When McKillop, 49, sensed that his contributions to the community needed to go beyond pure fun and games — when it became serious — he stepped up and oversaw the completion of the monument with bronzed plaque memorializing Austin Tautkus, who graduated in 2013 and was a wide receiver at Western Connecticut. Now the Tautkus legacy features a visible reminder at the entrance to the field. And it might not have gotten done without McKillop.


“Mike worked extremely hard on that, not only for it to be realized but for it to be installed,” said Rich Tynan, of Somers, a fellow member of the Ellington Football Boosters Club. Together, with their projects, they are referred to as “Barnum & Bailey.”


For making the Knights’ field no ordinary place to play games over the past five years and for ensuring the players feel special about their experience, McKillop has been named Community MVP for January by The Sports Department.


Rich Gelsomino, the longtime and now former president of the football boosters, said McKillop “kind of organized the whole effort” behind the Tautkus memorial.


Tynan is proud of his work with McKillop — terming his own role as co-collaborator — but he believes McKillop’s efforts on the Tautkus monument are most emblematic of McKillop’s term with the club. “We’d conceptualize, and he was the engine that would make it happen,” Tynan said of their projects together and with other boosters.


They met when their sons — both named Sean — were on the Ellington Roadrunners youth football team for eight and nine year olds in 2000. They suggested to the coach that team awards be included to the weekly practice routine to add incentive and make it more enjoyable for the kids. The idea was embraced.


Looking for special touches carried over when their sons reached high school a year apart and the dads joined the football boosters. Their sons graduated within the last two years.


McKillop’s style is not ostentatious per se, though some of his handiwork could be described in that way. He toils behind the scenes, enjoying process as well as finished product.


His professional background is in the printing business. McKillop, who played high school football with Bill Romanowski at Rockville (1984), knows how to dream, plan and deliver. In addition, he has been the webmaster for the boosters’ website as well as the Knights’ Facebook, twitter and team webpages.


Gelsomino said McKillop’s work has been done “to draw more interest from the community. They [McKillop-Tynan] contributed to improving the general atmosphere and to make it feel more like a big-time atmosphere,” Gelsomino said.


“Our whole theory,” McKillop said, “is that we want the games to be fun and exciting for the community. The things we do are all for the parents, kids and the team. We want the community to come back again.”


Right now, McKillop, whose family moved to Ellington in 2008, is focused on the town possibly receiving a STEAP (Small Town Economic Assistance Program) grant from the state that would help turn the Knights’ field into an all-weather facility with permanent lighting. The cost of the project approaches $1.2 million; the state grant would be for $500K, leaving a gap. The boosters are hopeful to make up the difference after the town contributes, if townsfolk pass a referendum on the field-improvement proposal.


With McKillop’s energy and vision coupled with the other boosters’ endeavors, there’s a chance the shortfall would be made up by the group.


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