PSU senior Gilliam is worth the weight
UNIVERSITY PARK — An outgoing type to begin with, Garry Gilliam hardly needed to come out of a proverbial shell to fit in with Penn State's gregarious offensive line unit.
Some 40 pounds of mass later, Gilliam appears as if he's far from being saddled by a shell, either.
“It was just crazy how he kept all his quickness and speed and stuff that,” defensive tackle DaQuan Jones said of Gilliam's bulking up to move from tight end to offensive tackle. “Me personally, I feel like if I gain a couple pounds, I feel like a turtle. So that's impressive.”
Gilliam has said he believes he's actually gained quickness since the end of last season, a time period in which he's gone from about 265 pounds to the 303 he's listed at now.
During his fourth year on campus last winter — but with two seasons of remaining eligibility — Gilliam approached Penn State coach Bill O'Brien. With tight end being arguably the Nittany Lions' most stacked position and the starting right tackle from last season, Mike Farrell, prepping for a shot at an NFL career, Gilliam saw a position switch as a logical choice.
It didn't hurt that he would get to eat more than just “salads and grilled chicken.” To move from tight end to tackle, Gilliam needed to pack on pounds. That's never been a problem for the Carlisle native.
“For me to stay at 265, 270 pounds, which is big for a tight end regardless, I had to stay on a diet to maintain weight,” Gilliam said. “I knew that if I just ate like normal, with my frame there's no reason I couldn't (gain weight).”
Gilliam suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during the Big Ten opener of his redshirt freshman season against Iowa. The grueling rehab cost him the rest of that 2010 season and the following one. The NCAA ultimately granted him a sixth season of eligibility.
Gilliam said he ballooned to close to 285 pounds while he recovered. Apparent his body preferred to carry more weight, Gilliam was finding his niche as a strong blocking tight end.
At the same time, Penn State was stockpiling quality receiving tight ends. Gilliam was a better fit for the Lions under late former coach Joe Paterno; with O'Brien's arrival came a tendency for tight ends who more closely resembled big receivers than small tackles. The top four tight ends on the Lions' depth chart — Kyle Carter, Jesse James, Matt Lehman and Adam Breneman — average 249 pounds.
Gilliam recognized that not only would a move to tackle benefit the team, he believes he has a better chance at an NFL future at that position.
“I give my hats off to Garry doing what he's doing,” Jones said. “It's amazing to see how he fought through everything to come back.
“Everyone on the team respects him for it and what he's done.”
Gilliam is listed as a co-starter with senior Adam Gress at right tackle on the official depth chart. O'Brien won't divulge who will start when Penn State opens its season against Syracuse at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in East Rutherford, N.J. But O'Brien did say both Gilliam and Gress will play.
Note: Penn State ranked 18th on the Forbes magazine's annual study of the most expensive college football game tickets in the nation, averaging $133.
Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.