Just a couple of days ago the footballing world was introduced to Jamie Gillan, the man who Tom Pelissero, yes, that Tom Pelissero, described as potentially the next Michael Dickson, given that he popped FOUR balls in practice.
Gillan however, isn’t interested in becoming the next Michael Dickson, nor does he desire to be anyone else. He’d rather be the next Jamie Gillan, the next enigma in the league, something he has his heart set on becoming.
That said, there will be doubters out there who question if this perceived hype is all just smoke without fire, thus I decided to disprove those theories. And how better to do so than by chatting to the man himself?
The Journey Begins
Gillan began his life in the Highlands, near Inverness, and soon discovered a loving for the sport of rugby. That love transcended into a deep-rooted passion as he found success early on in the game.
“I spent 4 years in Inverness attending Duncan Forbes Primary school and Culloden Academy. I played rugby for Highland RFC from Primary 5 to Senior year 1 and I had great times playing for that team; we never even lost a game! The coach was Donnie Flockhart, he was the best coach I have ever had to this day. I then went to Merchiston Castle School for 3 years on a sports scholarship for rugby. From ages 13-16. There, I won the U16 Scottish schools Cup!”
Despite his successes in the sport he loved, Gillan decided that he should join his family over in the United States, which ultimately paved the way for him to enrol in American football.
“I then chose to leave Merchiston to live with my family in America for my last 2 years of school. The school system is a lot different, as is the way of life, but i love it. I miss Scotland a lot, my friends and family are all over in Scotland but there are major opportunities out here.”
Speaking of opportunities, Jamie found exactly that at Leonardtown High School, the place where he spent the final two years of his secondary education. In our conversation, he revealed that he was a standout in multiple sports, but the team’s weakness on special teams created an opening for him to excel.
“I was still playing Rugby at the time, then in my last year there I chose to play soccer (football) and rugby at the same time. Soon I realised that the American football kicker and punter was not very good so I spoke to the coach called Brian Woodburn, who then watched my kicks and put me on the team. After that everything fell into place. From there, I was being recruited by quite a few college teams but I was not willing to pay for school out here when I could just as easily return home to Scotland and play rugby. However, my friend saw a Facebook post that UAPB needed a kicker. As a result, I simply put my highlights tape into the post and they called me that day and offered me a full scholarship. I took it and hopped on a plane a couple days later. Therefore, football became the dream from then on.”
With the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff being a smaller school, some might say it’d be easier to make the team. That, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. Moreover, Jamie, like every other student athlete, had the task of balancing his sporting career with his academic one, which was no easy task.
“It was a good 4 years, although it was hard work balancing football and class. But all in all it was 100% worth it. I have great friends and memories from this school. I chose to study Physical Education with a minor in kinesiology.” Said Jamie, adding: “I was the only kicker at the time, so I was automatically on the team, but by no means did I choose to not work hard, we had a punter as well, but he left. This created an opportunity for myself to takeover both positions, but it was completely different to high school, as I played in-front of a lot more supporters. Timing and accuracy is everything however, as coach would always say: “1 shot 1 kill”, “specialists do not get redos!”
Those 4 years at UAPB produced some of Gillan’s greatest memories, but which game was the pick of the bunch?
“My favourite memory is the last game of my collegiate career with my long snapper. I nailed 7/7 punts inside the 20 yard line, whilst my long snapper had a perfect day of snapping. In addition, I converted 6 of 7 field goals and we won the only game of the season! Everyone was so happy, that made it an amazing time!”
“Life Will Throw You Curve Balls, But You Have To Learn To Hit Those”
Gillan’s success at collegiate level provides another opportunity to excel in the sport he truly loves, that, of course, will be the biggest challenge of his life and career. Regardless, Jamie believes he can do it irrespective of the odds.
“I’ve always believed in myself, but like every position it takes time to be special at it, so my thought process was why not use 4 years of college to be the best punter and kicker I can be. And at the end of the 4 years I can say that I gave it my all. Ultimately, Punting is what I prefer to do, I’m more comfortable there, but because i have done all the jobs in college for 3 years, I am vastly experienced at both positions. Therefore if a kicker was to go down, I could make the extra point or a field goal.”
Preparation for the league is of the highest priority for Jamie, as he attempts to stamp his mark on an NFL roster.
“I have been training very hard in Arkansas, with my punting and kicking, but also with my strength and conditioning. On my pro day I plan to do all the events that other players will do, to show that I am more than just a punter. The rugby background should kick in there. I have an awesome agent who has been helping me out a lot with everything! I think I bring more to the table then just punting the ball to a location, furthermore, the rugby background makes me even more versitile.”
Evidently, the game of football means everything to Jamie, evidenced perhaps better than anything else as he ended our conversation with the following statement.
“The game of football has become a huge part of my life, it has taught me so many things. Especially the school I attended, I have never worked so hard on a sport and my body in my life, I simply love it. The school alone taught me to appreciate everything you receive, and that life will throw you curve balls, but you have to learn to hit those. It would be an extreme blessing to make it pro, something I could never take for granted. I would find another gear to work even harder! It would be amazing to be around special people and learn from the old heads of the game!”
A Statistical Anomaly
As depicted, Jamie Gillan’s heart and head are set on making it in the pros. He talks a good game, but more importantly he plays one.
This is evidenced in his statistical production as a UAPB Lion. Across his four year career, Gillan registered 9024 yards on 214 attempts collectively, averaging 42.2 yards per punt. He saved his best production for the 2018 season, as he contributed 3015 yards on just 71 attempts. Through those, his longest punt stands at an incredible 80 yards, whilst he also notched 27 punts inside the 20 and 19 punts that exceeded 50+ yards.
In addition, Gillan made 20 of 29 field goals on the year, with the longest converted FG standing at 47 yards. As a result, he boasts a FG conversion rate of 68.9% which is superb considering Gillan himself admits that kicking is his second best skill in the sport.
We, at Ninety-Nine Yards and the whole of the United Kingdom I am sure, are rooting for Jamie to make it to the NFL and wish him well in his future endeavours.
Image Credits – @Jamie_Gillan10 on Twitter.