Engaging Play

An engagement on the field.


It was a gorgeous Saturday, perfect for college football. The Charlotte 49ers were playing Rice University in Jerry Richardson Stadium and had just finished the first half.

Onto the field marches Madelyn Colby (’18), assistant drum major for the UNC Charlotte "Pride of Niner Nation" Marching Band. Together with two other drum majors, they conducted a rousing and energetic halftime show. However, that’s just when the fun began.


As Colby remained perched on her directing stand, she got an unexpected visitor: her boyfriend, Sgt. Justin Palko of the U.S. Army. In front of a crowd of nearly 15,000, Palko got down on one knee and popped the question. An astounded and exuberant Colby accepted, much to the stadium’s delight.

The two first met as teachers with Jay M. Robinson High School Marching Band in 2015. Palko, a Robinson High staff member, had been involved with the band for eight years and Colby was a new instructor. It was love at first sight. While marriage was never a question, the actual proposal was. Colby admits an on-field proposal was a daydream, but not a real possibility. “I didn’t think he’d actually do it. He wasn’t able to come to any of the games this year – or so he said! When I turned and saw him on the podium I was completely struck. I would have cried, but I was so focused on looking into his eyes and not falling off the platform!”

(Pictured left to right: Chancellor Dubois, Madelyn Colby, Sgt. Justin Palko and Lisa Dubois)

After their impromptu and romantic halftime performance, the two visited with Chancellor Dubois and his wife Lisa in the Chancellor’s Box.

Colby, a first generation college student and recipient of an athletic band scholarship, is a junior communication major and women’s and gender studies minor. The two plan to marry in spring of 2018. Congratulations, Madelyn and Justin!