Gilyard caught 87 passes for 1,191 yards and 11 touchdowns during an All-American senior season and was one of the best kick returners in NCAA history. Considering the uncertainty on whether either James Jones or Jordy Nelson will develop into a starting-caliber receiver once Donald Driver retires, Gilyard not only would provide a potential sidekick to Greg Jennings but add instant spark to one of the NFL's worst return units.
For his career, Gilyard returned four kickoffs for touchdowns, with his 28.7-yard average ranking 12th in NCAA history. Plus, he averaged 11.8 yards on punt returns with another touchdown.
"It just shows that I'm versatile and I'm not just a receiver that catches balls," Gilyard told reporters at the Scouting Combine. "I can also play outside, I can play in the slot and back slot. Just to add that element of kick return and punt return and knowing that I'm dangerous at both of them, too, adds an extra plus to the game."
Gilyard has an interesting and inspiring back story, starting with a father that he says abused his mother, Viola.
He was recruited as a running back but played in eight games as a cornerback as a true freshman in 2005. In 2006, however, he lost his scholarship due to bad grades.
He considered transferring to FCS schools Youngstown State and Georgia Southern but elected to stay at Cincinnati at his family's urging. But without a scholarship, Gilyard was forced to live out of a borrowed 2002 Pontiac Grand-Am. Plus, he worked all sorts of jobs, from delivering pizza to working construction, to pay back the $10,000 he owed the school.
It was a tough lesson, and Gilyard took it to heart.
"It took me from a kid that felt like he was full — from a kid that felt like I was everything and anything to football in Cincinnati — to someone that didn't have anything at all," he said. "I was homeless in the city. I lost my scholarship. I got evicted from my house. With that all in mind, I had to find faith and myself. I had to grow up. I was a real knucklehead kid. Arrogant, cocky, immature. I had to grow up, so that helped me out a lot. I wouldn't change it for nothing."
Gilyard re-enrolled in school for the fall semester in 2007 and got back on the football team when Brian Kelly took over as coach after Mark Dantonio went to Michigan State. Along with catching 36 passes and returning punts and kickoffs, Gilyard blocked two punts.
From there, he caught 81 passes for 1,276 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2008, with almost identical numbers last season. And now, his NFL career is almost at hand. He is a strong possibility to go to the Packers in the third round.
"My mother and brother (Otis), they can't really talk about it without crying. They've seen me grow," said Gilyard, who tells his story to kids in his hometown of Bunnell, Fla. "They've seen me go through all the ups and downs. My brother and me, having a single mom, my oldest brother from my mother was like our father figure in the house, so me and him have talked about the whole experience. The one thing he said was, ‘Bro, you did it. You got it, you did it.' He's just so proud of me. You know how brothers don't like to see other brothers cry? He'd just turn his head and be, like, ‘I got something in my eye,' one of those deals. He can't talk about it without getting choked up about the whole experience."
Gilyard met with the Packers at the Senior Bowl, where he showed immense promise but dropped too many passes as he seemed to be in too big of a hurry to show his open-field skills. At his pro day last month, Gilyard ran the 40 in 4.47 seconds, the 20-yard shuttle in 4.06 seconds and the three-cone drill in 6.71 seconds. All three put him among the top performances at the Combine, where Gilyard ran the 40 in 4.56 seconds.
"I think my strengths as a wide receiver are I bring speed and good hands to the game," Gilyard said. "And with that in mind — I've got speed and I've got hands — when I do get the ball in my hands, that's what makes me extremely dangerous. I'm good at making those yards after catch."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.