Fresh off the plane and in Palm Coast for less than two hours, Marshwan “Mardy” Gilyard was making his round of interviews late Thursday evening.
There I was, posted up at the Books-A-Million with his brother, Otis, and Staff Writer Shanna Fortier. We were waiting for him to get there, and in my mind, I was thinking how crazy it is that six years ago, I was watching Mardy Gilyard rip off 70-yard touchdown runs with ease at Flagler Palm Coast High School.
And a little more than a year ago, I was watching the same dynamic kid catch touchdown pass after touchdown pass at the University of Cincinnati. (He ended his college career with 204 receptions, 3,003 yards and 25 touchdowns.)
And though he had some off-field struggles while playing at Cincinnati, he was able to overcome the obstacles and earned All-America honors his senior season, catching 87 passes for 1,191 yards and 11 touchdowns.
And then, in he walks, in his green Vans, blue jeans, T-shirt and matching green hat that says “Florida Boi” on the back but has the St. Louis Cardinals logo on the front.
In Mardy’s first year as a player in the National Football League, he was slowed down by a severe wrist injury. He was in town this weekend, and we had a chance to sit down with him Thursday, April 7, to discuss his rookie season and what he’s doing to prepare for his second year.
What have you been up to this off-season?
I do a lot of music so I do a lot of rapping in my off season. I’ve done more rapping than lifting. I got my wrist reconstructed so I haven’t been able to lift. I’ve been rehabbing this wrist … keeping the wrist together and I rehab about three times a week … The hardest thing right now is to get my strength back.
The doctor said he’s never seen anything like this: Five pins in my wrist, and I have two screws.
For me, to have all that done and my whole arm locked down for three months, and I’m right back rolling to where I’m at now — I knew I was getting progress, but I thought it was just normal.
I’m bullheaded, too, so I’m driving with a cast on … playing video games with the cast on.
How did you injure your wrist?
In a fishing incident.
Did you play your whole rookie season with the injury?
The entire year I played with the ligaments torn in my wrist. Going from being All-American, I’m not going to sit the bench. When they came to me right before we were going into camp, they gave me two options: surgery and be done for the season or play through the pain. I wasn’t going to sit.
What about the lockout? What are your thoughts?
The lockout sucks. It’s so far away from football. I don’t know what’s going on in the courthouse. The only thing that matters to me is when I have to play and when you’re going to pay me. And I don’t want to get paid if I’m not playing. I started playing flag football at age 5. … All I am is football; that’s all I know.
I think the season is going to be short. I’d rather be around my brothers. I miss my brothers, and we spend so much time together. I wake up at 5:30 every morning, look at film, go eat, work out. Those 53 guys that get on that team, we become so close, it becomes a big huge family.
I didn’t know it was that much work. It went from being a football player to being an employee of the St. Louis Rams. We spend less time with the ball in our hands than anything.
How does your first-year experience help you now?
It helps you huge. It makes you go from looking at the couch to looking at the whole living room. When you come in as a rookie, I just want to play … We don’t even know how to play … We don’t know how to be pros. As a rookie, you won’t know how to be a pro until the 10th or 11th game in the season.
What do you mean by “being a pro?”
Learn how to conduct yourself in a pro manner. I can’t be a McDonald’s freak like I used to, except in the mornings; they can’t stop me from that. I know if I drink a can of Pepsi, I must smash three bottles of water behind that.
What’s it like to come back home?
It’s beautiful. Every time I come home, it’s beautiful. The air is different … the skin is different. I feel at ease. When I stop home, I’m just Marshwan. It’s cool that I play in the NFL, but I’m not like that here. My auntie still calls me “Boo-Boo,” and my uncle still call me “Doo-Doo.” For me to be able to come home and just me be is what I enjoy.
Your foundation is having an event in May. What is it all about?
I just got tired of seeing the kids chasing money. This is something that I’ve been busy with as a kid. I haven’t heard kids bragging about how many ribbons they’ve won in a long time.
What do you hope to come out of it?
Adults to see how great and good it is to see their kids having good fun. There is a lot of good that you can be doing in the city besides making money. All it takes is one person to be positive. I’m trying to be that light.
Why are you starting the scholarship this year?
I didn’t have great grades, so I didn’t have the Bright Futures. Sports were my thing. I was able to go to college based off my legs and my hands — my momma wasn’t able to give me money. I had 100 bucks when I went to Cincinnati. I don’t want kids to go through something like that.
Email Andrew O’Brien at [email protected].