Quiet Gillislee closing out senior year

Quiet Gillislee closing out senior year

Mike Gillislee didn't realize what his t-shirt said. When the senior running back made a rare appearance to talk to the media, he stepped to a podium in a shirt that spoke more about the type of player he is than any words he could have said. ‘Run more than your mouth.' That hasn't been a problem for the soft-spoken Gillislee. The senior is ending his career in Gainesville with a strong season.

"I'm not a guy that likes to talk a lot, but just go out there and do it," Mike Gillislee said.

That's not a surprise to any coaches or players on the team. He's quiet and keeps to himself. Florida coach Will Muschamp has mentioned multiple times that Gillislee is the kind of player he wants. Despite not playing much in his first three years on campus, Gillislee never complained.

He put his head down and went to work on special teams. When he got a chance to carry the ball when games were out of hand, he did his best and showed what he could do with the ball. He's finally getting an opportunity to shine this year.

But you won't hear him talk much about it.

Gillislee spoke to the media on Monday just minutes before Muschamp's usual time. When Gillislee was done and went into the locker room, Muschamp stepped up the podium.

"When I found out Gilly was in here, I figured I'd be postponed about an hour because he talks so much," Muschamp quipped.

The players and coaches know the kind of player Gillislee is, and they wouldn't trade it for a different personality. He's quiet in the huddle and on the practice field, but he's always in position and makes the plays.

At SEC Media Days this year, Gillislee came out with his bold goals for this year — 1,500 yards and 24 touchdowns. After nine games, Gillislee is at 797 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. It would take some record breaking games for him to reach the goals, but that hasn't changed his focus. It's still on helping the team win.

"I just want to finish the season and win out, win out at home," Mike Gillislee said.

The Gators haven't completed a regular season without losing a home game since 2009, when Gillislee was a freshman. He wants to bring that back and make it an important part of the team as a senior. The team has spent time talking about it in the locker room, and now they're wins over Louisiana and Jacksonville State away from making it happen.

"We don't lose in the Swamp," Gillislee said. "Only Gators get out alive. The past two years we lost in the Swamp, and we wanted to get it back to how it used to be."

After the season is over, Gillislee will turn his focus to his professional career. There were doubts about whether or not that would happen during his first three years on campus when he wasn't getting consistent touches. Now, the senior has shown what he can do with the ball in his hands and is projected to be drafted in the middle rounds.

Just last year, Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease was working at Boise State with running back Doug Martin, who is currently putting together a strong rookie season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's a lofty comparison between the two that Pease has made multiple times this year.

"He's got good hands. He's willing to block," Pease said of Gillislee. "He has all the phases that he can do at the next level -- catching, running, blocking. I think those are the things they're looking for first. They all want to know if you're coachable and how smart you can pick up. Physically, do you match up against the guys, linebackers that you're going to have to block at that level with their strength and speed."?

Pease sees all of those things in Gillislee and believes he has a future in the NFL.

"He's consistent," he said. "He understands the scheme. Sometimes we've missed a guy here or there, but you know everybody... you always learn. The one thing with Mike, he's good at making adjustments and understanding that you get done within the game."

There's still work to be done for Gillislee before he'll look that far in the future. The emotions will come on November 17 when the Gators host Jacksonville State for senior day. Gillislee's mom, dad and grandma will make the trip to Gainesville for his final home game.

The emotions will be flowing as always for the seniors, but for Gillislee, it's a story of patience.

"It's been a great experience," he said. "It's a dream come true. I always wanted to be a Gator. We're 8-1, and it's just great."

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