By Joe Fortenbaugh and Wes Bunting:
Mardy Gilyard isn’t the type of guy who ever finds himself at a loss for words.
The Cincinnati wide receiver has no problem telling you how it is, whether it’s the six months he spent living in his car or the 60 minutes he spent torching the South team in the 2010 Senior Bowl.
The loquacious All-American joined us for the National Football Post’s “Road to the NFL” podcast series. And while most prospects are solely focused on improving their 40 times and strengthening their skill set, Gilyard has an additional agenda he’s trying to accomplish — inspiring kids in his hometown of Bunnell, Fla., to persevere through the tough times and make something of themselves.
“I want to stop the whole cycle that’s going on in my city, which was everyone feels content just graduating out of high school like that’s A-OK and then jump right into the dope game,” Gilyard said.
The 23-year-old was back in his hometown last weekend pitching his message to local youth and working to establish his newest venture, the “Gilyard Group Foundation.”
And if there’s anyone who knows about hitting bottom and bouncing back, it’s Gilyard.
Prior to the accolades and national recognition, Gilyard’s football career appeared to be over. In 2006, he lost his scholarship at Cincinnati for academic reasons and spent six months living in a loaned 2002 Pontiac Grand Am and working three jobs to get by.
“When I’m explaining it to the kids, it depends on where we’re at,” he said. “If we’re in a grass field, I tell all the kids to scratch the ground as hard as they can and then look at their nails. If they have dirt in them, I’m like, ‘That’s me. That’s where I was.’ At that particular time I was the lowest of the low. You can’t get too much lower than dirt…well, molten rock — but you can’t dig that deep.”
After three weeks of living in the used Grand Am, Gilyard took a look at himself and knew it was time for a change.
“I had a chance to sit back and view myself as a person. I was real immature. I wasn’t a nice person to be around. I was real arrogant and cocky and very disrespectful to people.”
After delivering pizzas, working construction and selling cutlery door to door for a few months in an effort to pay back the University of Cincinnati the $10,00 he owed, an opportunity finally presented itself.
The wide receiver caught a break when Brian Kelly took over as head coach for Mark Dantonio at Cincinnati in December of 2006. Kelly liked what he saw of Gilyard on tape and offered him the opportunity to earn his scholarship back.
Three seasons, 204 receptions, 3,003 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns later, Gilyard is preparing to take the next step in his journey to the NFL.
Follow Mardy on Twitter: @MardyGilyard
Click HERE to check out “The Road to the NFL: Jared Odrick”
Click HERE to check out “The Road to the NFL: Jeremy Williams”