Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

BACK ON TOP; Gators Reclaim Conference; Wake Heads to Orange Bowl 'Great Day' in the Life of ACC Champ Riley Skinner's Family Watches as the Former Bolles Quarterback Returns to Lead Wake Forest

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

BACK ON TOP; Gators Reclaim Conference; Wake Heads to Orange Bowl 'Great Day' in the Life of ACC Champ Riley Skinner's Family Watches as the Former Bolles Quarterback Returns to Lead Wake Forest

Article excerpt

Byline: FRANCINE KING

Saturday morning for Riley Skinner began with a text message from his mother -- a game-day ritual.

The message began: "It is a great day. ..."

When Jenifer Skinner sent the message, she did not know just how great the day would be for her youngest son.

Hours later, Riley, a redshirt freshman quarterback, led Wake Forest to a 9-6 victory over Georgia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.

A day that began in anxious anticipation ended with tears of joy from Riley's biggest fans -- his family.

But before those tears could fall, his family spent several intense hours watching the former Bolles School standout perform in front of his hometown crowd at Alltel Stadium.

Before he took the field with his Demon Deacon teammates, Skinner's family spent several hours gathered in a makeshift reunion in Lot J.

Surrounding a Wake Forest tent, Riley's family group steadily grew throughout the morning, doubling from 25 to 50 in an hour and increasing to more than 100 by the time they were ready to take their seats.

The growth mirrored the way Riley's "family" has grown over the years from a large extended family to an even larger adopted family of teammates and their relatives from Bolles, and now Wake Forest.

"We've been able to meld our Wake Forest family with our Jacksonville family," said Chip Skinner, Riley's father, who played baseball for Georgia Tech. "It's been neat to see everyone rally around the Demon Deacons."

At least 25 members of Riley's immediate and extended family were joined in their pregame festivities by the families of at least six of his teammates, including Bolles graduate John Russell and Jacksonville resident Sam Swank, who would be named the ACC championship game MVP.

Jenifer Skinner's father, Clayton Riley -- Riley Skinner's namesake -- led a contingent of the Riley clan that included Clayton's sister Lola Vincent, 83, and Jenifer's siblings with their spouses and children.

Many Wake Forest fans also joined the party, along with a crop of Bolles fans whose sons played with Riley during the Bulldogs' 2004 state championship run.

With so many family members present, family traditions manifested themselves throughout the day.

Perhaps the most touching, however, was a simple gesture from mother to son, as Riley filed off the bus with his teammates.

Jenifer spotted him heading into the stadium and her arm shot up as she counted one, two, three on her fingers. It's a family code that Jenifer's mother, Maureen, used with her children before she died. It translates to "I love you."

Riley saw his mother and returned the gesture, a silent tribute to the love he has for his family -- a family that includes the freshly crowned ACC champion Demon Deacons. …

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