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Penn State Football: Gilliam Catch For Seahawks A High Point In Long Road

by on January 19, 2015 1:15 PM

"Just catch it Garry..."

Somewhere there is a quote-a-day calendar that reads about how one simple life choice can change the course of your life.

It's something overly philosophical but undeniably true. 

And just about a year ago Penn State tight end turned offensive lineman Garry Gilliam wrestled with one of those very choices. Stay in college for a sixth year or take his talents to the NFL and see what happened next.

Gilliam never cashed in on that sixth and final year. His decision to go pro would be the gamble he took. That not so simple choice that could change the rest of his life.  Gilliam consulted with former Penn State tight end Kyle Brady and others to see what was next in his story.

The decision: Go pro.

A few months later Garry Gilliam was a Seattle Seahawk.

“I actually declared late to go to the draft because I was still bouncing between coming back to Penn State and going pro.” Gilliam said after his pro-day workout.

“A lot of scouts didn’t know I was going to continue to try and get into the league. I got my degrees. I triple majored, finished two of them and am close to the third. I got out healthy so there was no point in trying to push it another season. I’m already 23, would’ve been 24 playing in the season so your risk of injury gets a little bit higher."

So as Gilliam hauled in Seattle's first score of the NFC title game late in the third quarter on a fake field goal, it was clear that he had made the right choice. Maybe Seattle wins in another universe with a different player in that position, but Gilliam will likely never have a moment bigger than that -- unless his number is called again at the Super Bowl. And after Sunday it wouldn't be out of the question.

Gilliam's journey to that crucial moment in Seattle wasn't without its ups and downs. Battling through an ACL tear and bumps and bruises during his career, Gilliam was granted a sixth year of eligibility to make up for lost time. He played tight end for the majority of his tenure at Penn State before switching to a more permanent role on the offensive line. He got bigger, stronger and did what he had to.

Because that's what the team needed.

All of this came with no guarantee of success. Despite his long career at Penn State, Gilliam was dependable but was never seen as the primary tight end target. And one year at offensive tackle does not automatically guarantee success at the next level.

But like many of the success stories in sports, Gilliam's 19-yard touchdown reception was the product of the same kind of hard work and effort the rest of his teammates put in. He just needed to capitalize on that chance when it finally came. Maybe his future was never certain years ago while sitting out with an injury, but that time was long behind him as he roared to the crowd with 6 points to his name.

It may have been his first career reception in the NFL, but like Gilliam himself, the Seahawks took a gamble and it paid off.

"The main thing going through my mind at that point was 'Just catch it Garry," Gilliam told StateCollege.com on Monday. "Follow the ball all the way in. It seemed like it was up there forever."

"I'm just honored and thankful to be given an opportunity to contribute to such a great team and be a part of it all. There were plenty of plays in the game where momentum shifted, I'm just happy the coaches trusted me enough with that opportunity."  

And now Garry Gilliam is playing in the Super Bowl.

"I think it's every football player's dream to play in the big game, and I'm very thankful we get that opportunity."

Seems like this life choice was a good one.

 

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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