Four years ago, Mardy Gilyard(notes) had his athletic scholarship revoked, was working four jobs in order to pay a $10,000 debt to the school and spent his nights homeless in a 2002 Pontiac Grand Am. Now, he's an NFL wide receiver.
After being kicked out of the University of Cincinnati for academic reasons following his freshman year, Gilyard wanted to return home to Florida, a move which likely would have ended his football career. His mom and older brother convinced him to stay in Ohio, though, and Gilyard says during that stretch he grew up from the "knucklehead, arrogant, cocky, immature" kid he was. He worked four jobs (including as a pizza delivery man and door-to-door knife salesman) in order to fulfill his financial obligation to the school, a decision which paid off when new Coach Brian Kelly(notes) reinstated him to the team. Gilyard left the Bearcats as the all-time leading receiver in school history.
The offense-deficient Rams selected him with the first pick in the fourth round of last month's draft and expect the smooth route-runner to contribute this year alongside fellow rookie Sam Bradford(notes). Gilyard also returned punts during last weekend's minicamp.
Give me a guy like Gilyard any day over a player with more talent but questionable work ethic. Success and failure in the NFL has much less to do with 40 times and bench press reps than it does with wanting it and knowing what it takes to get it. Gilyard could have turned his back on his debt, moved home and harbored delusions of making the NFL without ever really working for it. Instead, he lived in a car, paid off the money he owed, got back in the good graces of Cincinnati and earned his spot in the NFL.
"I went from rags to riches," he told USA Today. "It just showed I'm a hard worker and that I could fight through adversity. That's all the game of football is: It's about fighting through adversity."
If that's the case, Gilyard should have a long and prosperous career in the front of him.