Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

March 26, 2014

Rowan’s Gilliam inks with MSU

MOREHEAD — It’s been a dream of Rowan County’s Austin Gilliam to play college football. From the time he put on his pads at 7 years old to his final game with the Vikings his senior year, he wasn’t ready to hang up the cleats.

Gilliam’s football-playing future now rests with Morehead State University. He signed his letter of intent on Friday to stay at home for his college education and play for the Eagles.

“This is a great opportunity,” Gilliam said.  “I get to play where I thought I would play in the future.  My dad (former player and former MSU assistant coach John Gilliam) was an Eagle and something just felt right when I took my visit.”

John Gilliam is now the head coach at Boyd County.

MSU went 3-9 in the first year of the Rob Tenyer era. He replaced Matt Ballard, who spent 19 seasons on the sidelines for the Eagles.  Gilliam noticed the changes with the commitment by the coaching staff to build a winner at Morehead State.

“It was almost completely different than a few years ago,” Gilliam said.  “I know it’s still the same building but the internal aspect has changed and it felt good. The program is heading in the right direction.”

Gilliam was a team captain for Rowan County in his senior season and a three-year starter for the Vikings.  He had 102 knockdown blocks, and in his final year he had 20 tackles, five for losses, and three sacks on the defensive side of the ball. He was named to the first team All-Area for two seasons.

“He’s grown up on the MSU sidelines,” said former Rowan County coach Kyle Singleton.  “That’s all Austin knows and that’s a good thing. He’s going to great program and I’m excited about what he can contribute to Morehead State.”

Gilliam said Tenyer is planning to redshirt him this season so he can work on some things in the weight room to have a chance to compete for a starting job on the offensive line.  

He said he’s motivated to get in the weight room and work on getting better.

“I’m one of those people if I’m going to play I’ll give everything I have to it,” Gilliam said.  “Hopefully the cards play out to where I get to play early and make an impact and help.”

One thing he will not need to work on is his ability to lead.  Singleton said he’s a “natural leader” and brings plenty of intangibles to his new team. “He was a great one for us,” Singleton said. “He’s learned how to lead the right way and he has the ability to motivate his teammates.  He’s got great football knowledge and that intensity and nastiness that an offensive lineman needs.”

While the 2014 recruiting class has not been announced by Morehead State, Gilliam has a good feeling about the group he’s a part of to come in and compete in the PFL.

“I feel like we’re going to come together and play for a Pioneer Football League Championship and a make a run in the playoffs,” Gilliam said. “Any time you have an opportunity to play in the postseason and play free football and that’s something you look forward to when you were little.”

Of course, Gilliam will not forget the time in a Viking uniform.

“It’s been a ride,” Gilliam said.  “It’s taught me a lot of things, especially that hard work gets you where you want to be. We’ve worked really hard and from a freshman to senior to help build the Rowan County program. I’m going to miss all of the coaches but playing in my hometown allows me to stay in touch with them.”

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