Gilliam, a two-way standout from Lincoln High School, survived a hectic National Signing Day last Wednesday. Actually, hectic is not an accurate description. Stressful is far closer to the truth as Gilliam juggled with frayed emotions before signing with Oregon over childhood favorite Florida State.
"The process kicked my butt pretty good," Gilliam said and laughed. "I was mentally and emotionally drained."
Gilliam's decision to head across the country rather than stay in his own backyard was one of the most perplexing this past recruitng process. The personable and polite Gilliam admits that FSU was the easy choice. It actually was his first choice – he had orally committed to the Seminoles in early January.
However, as Feb. 5 approached, Gilliam began to have second thoughts. That uncertainity stayed with him even after he announced his decision to sign with the Ducks in a school news conference last Wednesday.
"It was very stressful because my one thing going into the whole process was that I was not going into signing day not knowing where I was going," Gilliam told TheTerritory Saturday. " I guess that's the one goal I made for myself. I woke up that morning and I knew exactly where I was going (Oregon). Still, I just. .... It was stressful, very emotional.
"After I announced Oregon, I had one last talk with coach (David) Wilson (Lincoln head coach) and at one point I was thinking I might want to sleep on it another night. But a couple of hours went by and I basically decided that nothing was going to change between then and the morning. Somehow I knew if I woke up (next day), I was going to be a ‘Nole. I told myself that I had made my decision and I was going to stick with it."
Easier said than done.
In fact, Gilliam, who turns 18 at the end of this month, had signed both scholarships to Oregon and FSU before he made it official and faxed the papers to the Ducks. (He made his official visit to Oregon Dec. 13). Gilliam felt complety overwhelmed at one point. That's when he asked everyone to leave coach Wilson's office in an attempt to calm himself. And that's when he punched an unsuspecting filing cabinet.
"I was very frustrated at one point," Gilliam said.
"I was on the phone with Florida State most of the morning. Oregon, too. Everyone was giving me their opinion and I basically had no more to give. I was mentally drained and at that one point, I couldn't handle it anymore. I had to vent. Here I was, walking away from my dream (FSU) and I am telling myself I couldn't believe I was going to do it. But I knew that's what I had to do."
Gilliam, who can play either receiver or cornerback, also knew good friends Antonio Cromartie, Ernie Sims and DeCody Fagg all were earmarked for FSU. The group had remained in close contact leading up to national signing day.
"People were thinking that we were all waiting to see what each other was going to do, but we knew," Gilliam said. "They just didn't know what I was going to do because I really didn't know. I kept telling them they were going to have a great future (at FSU). I kept saying that the entire time."
And Gilliam knew he was running out of time Wednesday.
"I knew walking away from Florida State was the hardest thing I was going to do," Gilliam said. "I couldn't have gone wrong if I had gone to FSU. I was scared but I knew I had to be true to myself."
That meant feeling good about his decision. Gilliam does.
"It was very difficult but it was the right one (decision)," Gilliam said. "I have some personal goals that I want to accomplish and I think I need to get away to accomplish them. I have nothing against Florida State. Nothing at all. I just need to get away, do my own thing and make a name for myself at Oregon. This is a great opportunity and I have set myself up for success, not failure. It's going to all work out well for everyone."