Rocky, Vince Papale and Mardy Gilyard? Okay, maybe I’m jumping the gun a bit. Normally I wouldn’t write about such a mundane signing but I think that Mardy Gilyard has a story worth telling and I think that it is one that you’ll like and after reading, have trouble not rooting for him.
Mardy Gilyard had it made, he had a full ride scholarship to the University of Cincinnati. Who wouldn’t want that? A free education for playing a game? Sounds like a good deal, right? Well, Mardy Gilyard failed to recognize the opportunity that he was presented with, as many young people tend to do. He barely played in his freshman year on the field and he didn’t do so hot in the class room which forced him to red-shirt his Sophomore year. Gilyard ultimately had his scholarship revoked and suddenly, a poor kid from Florida was left without a place to stay and he owed the school approximately $10,000.
But that’s not the stuff of Philadelphia legends, now is it? Squandered opportunity and wasted talent? We hate that stuff! So why is his story so great? Well, I refer you to a quote that many of you have probably already heard: “Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up” and Mardy Gilyard really got up.
Mardy Gilyard responded to getting his scholarship revoked by getting 3 jobs so that he could stay in school and get himself out of the mess he got himself into. He worked construction. He delivered pizza. He sold silverware door to door. He worked until one day, he showed up to the registrar’s office with $7,000 cash.
Oh, and did I mention he was also homeless? Think about this for a second. A 19 year old kid gets the greatest opportunity ever presented to him squandered. He owes an institution $10,000. He gets kicked off the football team and can no longer play the game he loves. And his own Mother won’t let him come back home to Florida either (tough love!). He has nowhere to live. He has no money. Those are some damning circumstances that would crush most kids. But instead of wallowing, he goes out and gets 3 jobs and pays his way back into school. Impressive.
And the popular narrative also says that while working three jobs and being homeless, Mardy Gilyard was feeding other homeless people and volunteering his spare time at the Church. Yeah, great story right? Well, hold onto your seats because it gets better. Mardy Gilyard said that he prayed to get another chance to play football saying that “…if you give me football back, I’m going to do good with it.”
And Mardy Gilyard more than upheld his end of the bargain. Not only did Mardy Gilyard go back to school but he got his scholarship back and got back on the football team. And once he got there, he thrived (and that might be putting it mildly). In his 3 years at Cincinnati, Gilyard had 204 catches, 3003 yards, 25 touchdown catches and he had 5 special teams touchdowns. He was named an All-American in 2008 (as a returner) and 2009 (as a receiver). He was twice an All Big-East First Team selection. And he was the Special Teams Player Of The Year in the Big East in each of his last two seasons with the Bearcats. He is the Bearcats all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, all purpose yards, kick return yardage and kick return touchdowns. He may be the best player in Bearcat history. He was also the MVP of the Senior Bowl. Redemption. Vindication. Call it whatever you want, Gilyard overcame the odds. And his charitable side didn’t perish when he found success.
This is a guy that I (and hopefully you) can really get behind and everyone who has ever come into contact with Gilyard really has nothing but nice things to say about him. I wish him all the best and hopefully he can be an Eagles for a long time.
Extra Background Information:
Mardy Gilyard was the first pick of the 4th round in the 2010 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams.
The Eagles tried to trade for Mardy Gilyard last offseason.
The Eagles worked-out Mardy twice this past season.
Mardy Gilyard measured in at 6′ tall and 187 pounds at the Combine.
Mardy Gilyard ran a 4.61 at the Combine but his 10 yard split of 1.53 (measures acceleration) was identical to that of DeSean Jackson.
Mardy Gilyard notched a 39″ vertical jump at the Combine.
In 2009 (his senior year) Gilyard had 2690 all purpose yards and 15 total touchdowns (11 receiving, 1 punt return, 2 kick returns, 1 rushing).