The Story of Mardy Gilyard
by Jessamyn McIntyre
Mardy Gilyard. It’s a name you might have heard, but he’s not someone you know. That is, until now – expect to hear a lot from and about this young man in the near future, and expect to like it.
Paul Daugherty of Sports Illustrated did an in-depth piece on the Cincinnati wide receiver in December, and today he was a guest on The Kevin Calabro Show, where he spoke candidly and honestly about his struggles as well as his triumphs.
The story that followed wasn’t a promising one. After losing his scholarship, Mardy was billed for everything the scholarship covered – including his apartment. Shortly thereafter, he was homeless, living in his car and working four jobs to pay off his debt.
So many young men in that position would give up, take the easiest route – go home. Mardy didn’t. He persevered, and today, he explained why.
“I’m from a small city in Florida – and all it’s known for is sale and delivery of crack cocaine…and into that. In the city of Cincinnati, I had the chance to start falling in love with more kids and working with kids more and more, and seeing the look in their eyes when they found out I was a college athlete. Just looking at those innocent kids – exactly where I’m from – in the ‘hood. They want to do better, but they never had an example to do better. In the ‘hood, it’s a cycle that keeps repeating itself. I was able to break that cycle and show that there is a will and there is a way.”
Subsequently, he found the person he is today – the impressive young man that took to the air this afternoon. After meeting with Coach Kelly, a man Mardy says knew nothing about him – a man who Mardy says took the ultimate leap of faith in giving him back his scholarship.
“He literally about me. One think he said was ‘Son, you’ve got a lot of people vouching for you out here’. At the time I didn’t know who was vouching for me, but I ended up finding out this past season it was the coach who recruited me – Coach Hinton – he was the only coach left from the old staff. He actually put his job on the line. So I met with (Coach Kelly) and he told me straight up, ‘Hey son, look at this,’ and it was a scholarship paper. And he said, ‘If you take care of your end of things, I’ll take care of mine’. And he already had the scholarship paper filled out. He just had faith in me.”
If that wasn’t enough of a turnaround for him, Coach Kelly bestowed upon him an honor unheard of at UC. He gave him the jersey #1.
“The coaches took that number away because they thought it was a selfish number. Coach Kelly was like, ‘What number are you, son?’ I was like, ‘Well, Coach, I’m number 19.’ And he was like ‘You don’t look like a number 19…?’ And my eyes just got huge, I mean like cartoon eyeballs. He was like, ‘In my eyes, you’re ready for this number.’ I mean, I literally, mouth dropped on the floor. And I just said, ‘Coach, thank you.'”
If that’s not humble enough for your taste, perhaps Mardy’s reaction when he got his #1 jersey is. “I could never forget that first day, man. I cried for about an hour, just looking at my jersey. Just thinking about where I was, how I grew up, where I came from. I was just so overwhelmed about everything, I just. The thing that I like about my teammates…literally all my brothers just came and they embraced me and they hugged me – and they were like, ‘Welcome back, bro – it’s time to go on this ride. You’re gonna have a blast.'”
Now Mardy’s on his way to having a blast in the NFL, as he enters with promising analysis from some of the best in the business. Mel Kiper Jr. has him going early in the second round, and had the following to say about him after the Senior Bowl:
“I’ve had Gilyard on the Board this year, and have been higher on him than some others. Gilyard’s instincts and his ability simply get open are both very strong. He’ll come back to the ball to bail out a scrambling quarterback (saw that against Pitt in the regular-season finale), and he remained productive regardless of who was throwing the ball in terms of Tony Pike or Zach Collaros. He’s a wide receiver, so how he runs will have a huge effect on his stock, but I like him.”
He’s certainly given a lot of people a reason to root for him, on the field and off.