- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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The off-field life of Florida running back Mike Gillislee is far from glamorous.
While the senior had a legitimate MVP-like year with the best season by a Gators running back since 2004, away from the field he’s your typical boring college student -- go to class, eat, sleep, play video games.
The 5-foot-11, 209-pound bruiser would rather keep to himself before talking with his pads on Saturdays.
“It’s not that much to do,” said Gillislee, who became the first Florida running back to rush for 1,000 yards since Ciatrick Fason did so in 2004. “It’s a lot of trouble, but that ain't for me. I like to do positive things.”
According to redshirt junior center Jonotthan Harrison, who was a part of Florida’s 2009 recruiting class with Gillislee, Gillislee is a homebody who prefers eating on campus rather than going out in public. He’d rather play "Madden" or "NCAA Football" with his teammates or in the comfort of his own home instead of hitting the bar. The most excitement in his life usually takes place on either the practice field or on game day.
“He doesn’t do much outside of that,” Harrison said.
And while it might seem like Gillislee is wasting prime social time with his peers, his teammates and coaches couldn’t be happier with his uneventful social life.
He truly has taken on the nature of second-year coach Will Muschamp. His cliché mantra of actions speaking louder than words really took hold for Gillislee, who spent his first three years playing backup to Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. And Muschamp loves that about Gillislee.
He’s quiet, but speaks volumes with his play. His hushed demeanor, coupled with an extremely unselfish attitude and an unquestioned thrust for yardage are main reasons he rushed for 1,104 yards and 10 touchdowns this fall, after he accumulated just 920 rushing yard and 10 touchdowns in the three previous seasons combined.
“I think any time in our society we suffer from the disease of me,” Muschamp said. “How does it affect me? And most people suffer from that. And Mike doesn’t. He’s a team guy. He’s a consummate team guy. He’s one of my favorites of all-time. He’s a guy that’s a great example.”
Harrison said he really admires Gillislee’s game and, while he’s known more for bullying his way to extra yards, his vision and intellect are two often-overlooked qualities in Gillislee’s arsenal. Harrison said there were numerous times when linemen would be blocking zone to the right and out of nowhere they’d see linebackers chasing Gillislee left because he’d found another hole.
Harrison said it’s a pleasure blocking for Gillislee because he understands how to read blocks and he’ll make a hole by lowering his shoulders and punching his way through when needed.
“It’s a real good deal this season that we have such a determined back in the backfield,” Harrison said.
That determination paved the way to 1,000 yards, but Gillislee had much more in mind before the season. He stunned media members during July’s SEC media days when he confidently stated that he wanted 1,500 yards and 24 touchdowns.
While he fell short, Gillislee will gladly take the season he had.
“It’s a great feeling [to rush for 1,000 yards],” he said. “It’s something that I always wanted to do. I always wanted to be remembered and getting 1,000 yards I think I’m going to be remembered.”
He’ll be remembered for a lot of things. He’ll be remembered for the 148-yard opener that had fans buzzing about his potential. He’ll be remembered for the 12-yard, game-winning touchdown run against Texas A&M in Week 2, a play on which he was clearly injured. No one will forget him churning out 146 yards and two touchdowns on 34 demanding carries in Florida’s 14-6 win over LSU in October.
(No wonder he wore that “Damn I’m Good” T-shirt afterward.)
And his 140-yard, two-score performance in the win over archrival Florida State in Tallahassee won’t escape Gators fans’ minds for years.
It’s been a heck of a season for Gillislee, who went from quiet reserve to ranking fourth in the SEC in rushing yards and helping Florida ascend to No. 3 in the BCS standings, but he isn’t done.
Gillislee will walk into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with the usual restrained look on his face ready for business against No. 21 Louisville in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Wednesday. That look will galvanize his teammates, especially his offensive line, as they look to send him out with one last unforgettable performance.
“When the whole offense works together, it’s really difficult to stop him,” Harrison said.
“He’s great at what he does.”