After a successful career in the NFL, former Penn State player Garry Gilliam has turned his attention to sparking change in his hometown of Harrisburg.
He joins The Sports Extra Podcast to talk about life after football, what he learned attending Milton Hershey and how Penn State and Head Coach Joe Paterno helped propel him to the man he is today.
The 30-year-old father is the CEO of an organization called The Bridge designed to bring life to communities through cooperation, collaboration and community.
According to The Bridge website, the mission is to tackle some of the challenges facing communities like “food security; access to healthcare; affordable housing; adequate paying jobs; training and education; transportation; sustainable infrastructure (power, water, waste); public safety; inequality; and access to non-predatory funds. These issues together have created systems of oppression for many Black Americans.”
The plan is to transform the old Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg into an eco village designed to foster work, eat, live, learn and play.
On The Sports Extra Podcast, Gilliam talks at length about combatting systemic oppression, the vehicles that keep communities in poverty and how he hopes to change that cycle here in Harrisburg.
Penn State Career
Gilliam’s Penn State football career was fraught with injuries and triumph.
Shortly into his redshirt freshman season, Gilliam tore multiple ligaments in his left knee requiring five surgeries (two to repair the muscles, three to combat an infection). He missed two seasons and spent significant time in the hospital and in rehab.
During that time, Penn State fired Joe Paterno in the wake of a sexual abuse scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
No matter what happens I’m staying at Penn State …— Garry Gilliam Jr. (@Garry_Gilliam) July 22, 2012
Gilliam returned to the Penn State roster under new Head Coach Bill O’Brien and worked to regain his starting spot as a tight end.
Eventually, Gilliam would petition his head coach to allow him to switch to offensive tackle, hoping to better his chances at an NFL roster. He put on 35 pounds in three months and began spring practice of his junior season on the line.
In the first practice, he tore his calf and missed the entire spring camp. He overcame that injury as well and started all eight games that season.
He was undecided about declaring for the NFL Draft and missed getting a Combine invite as a result. At Penn State Pro Day, he says he put up top times for his position, but still went undrafted in 2014.
He later signed with the Seattle Seahawks, rejoining former Penn State teammate and Steelton-native Jordan Hill.
Gilliam’s NFL career started in Seattle the season after the Seahawks won a Super Bowl. He chose to go to Seattle because he felt he could continue to learn the position (which he only played for one season at Penn State) without the pressure of being a Day 1 starter.
In his first season, Gilliam found a role on field goals, and short yardage situation.
No situation bigger than in the NFC Championship game at home against the Packers down 16-0 in the third quarter. On a field goal attempt, Head Coach Pete Carroll called “Charlie Brown.” A fake play where the holder would pass to Gilliam.
The play worked perfectly, the Seahawks beat the Packers in overtime, and Gilliam’s legacy in Seattle was cemented.
Also in the episode
Also in this week’s episode of The Sports Extra Podcast, the crew talks about Eagles Training Camp and joint practices with the Patriots, Tim Tebow’s tenure with the Jags and Logan’s trip to LA.
Meet the voices behind the podcast: Allie Berube and Logan Reever. The Sports Extra Podcast is designed to bring listeners closer to the games, teams and athletes they love. The podcast will dive deeper than the hosts can go on TV.
The Sports Extra Podcast releases episodes every Thursday. The goal is to talk about national sports with a local flair. Allie & Logan bring guests on each week to share their perspectives on sports.
You can catch The Sports Extra Podcast presented by abc27 each week. The team drops new episodes every Thursday. Listen wherever you get your podcasts or right here on abc27.com.