UF Senior Salute: Mike Gillislee
EDITOR'S NOTE: GatorCountry.com is highlighting the careers of each of the Florida Gators' football team's seniors in this ongoing series heading into their final game in the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Louisville on Jan. 2.
With 11:01 remaining in the fourth quarter, senior running back Mike Gillislee broke through Florida State’s defensive line and ran into the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown.
The score was a microcosm for Gillislee’s career. He was patient, biding his time as things developed, and then he turned in an astonishing effort.
Gillislee, a 5-foot-11, 209-pound tailback from DeLand, Fla., had a modest initial three seasons for the Gators. He contributed when his number was called, but his workload was light.
Running behind Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey in an offense that utilized stretch runs as opposed to inside rushing, Gillislee was forced to bide his time through some disappointing seasons.
Prior to 2012, Gillislee never carried the ball more than 58 times in a season. In three years, he scored just 11 total touchdowns.
Throughout this season, Gators coach Will Muschamp has reminisced back to the times when Gillislee was overlooked and not given a chance. To Muschamp, that time showed Gillislee’s commitment to the program.
In an era when most college players would have let the lack of playing time become a distraction or reason for a transfer, Gillislee instead embraced the role and the program all the same. He was never late for meeting or unprepared for a game or practice.
Gillislee won the respect of Muschamp. In 2012, Gillislee won Muschamp some games, as well.
In the regular season, Gillislee finished with 235 carries for 1,104 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was also an asset in the passing game, as he also caught 15 passes for 146 yards and a score.
Against LSU on Oct. 6, Gillislee pounded the rock 34 times for 146 yards and Florida’s only two touchdowns in a 14-6 win.
The win helped legitimize the Florida program, proving the Gators were back among the Southeastern Conference’s elite. Six weeks later when Florida earned a BCS bowl bid with a win against Florida State, Gillislee ran 24 times for 140 yards and two more scores.
“All I needed was a little seam,” Gillislee said of his go-ahead touchdown against Florida State. “I seen it and just mashed the gas, and I hit it, and it was a touchdown.”
Perhaps the only thing more difficult than tackling Gillislee is getting him to talk about himself.
Gillislee is naturally a quiet person. Muschamp has praised his running back this season for leading by example despite saying few words. Gillislee rarely speaks with the media, not out of arrogance, but instead because he truly doesn’t enjoy the limelight.
Gillislee is a blue-collar runner with a lunch-pail mentality.
“Our offensive line (has) been doing a great job,” Gillislee said following the win against Florida State. “They deserve all the credit.”
Though the offensive line did redeem itself for a poor performance in prior weeks, Gillislee was wrong to sell himself short.
In one season, Gillislee has helped Muschamp get the Florida program closer to where he wants it to be.
No. 3 Florida (11-1, 7-1 SEC) improved drastically from its 7-6 finish a year ago. This season, the Gators will finish in the Sugar Bowl as opposed to the Gator Bowl.
However, more important than raw numbers or yearly bowl appearances is the mindset change Gillislee has helped establish.
Gillislee was the ideal back for a shift in philosophy, a change both Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease were hoping to establish this season.
Florida is no longer the type of program it was under Urban Meyer. Gone is most of the flash the offense once had. In its place resides a tough, downhill running game and equally forceful mindset throughout the team.
Gillislee helped establish that with his work ethic throughout his time at Florida and his results this season. Gillislee ran through defenses, helped the Gators pick up wins and showed teammates how to play and work the correct way.
However, he will be the last to ever admit it.
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2014 Football Commits
|Davidson (NC) Day|
|Cross City (Fla.) Dixie County|
|Jacksonville (Fla). Raines|
|Deland (Fla.) High|
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|Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas|
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|Immokalee (Fla.) High|
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2013 Basketball Commits
|Clermont (Fla.) Montverde Academy|
|Bonifay (Fla) Holmes County|
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