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Tuesday, October 9, 2012
A man of few words

By Michael DiRocco
GatorNation

GAINESVILLE, Fla.  Florida's Mike Gillislee is one of the best running backs in the country and is starting to get some attention as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

Yet nobody outside of the team knows anything more about him than when he was toiling on the bench and getting mop-up carries in his first three seasons.

Mike Gillislee
Mike Gillislee has developed a nose for the end zone, scoring seven touchdowns in the season's first five games.
And that's perfectly fine with Gillislee. He'd rather get the same kind of attention usually devoted to long snappers: none.

"I don't think he clamors to the limelight," UF offensive coordinator Brent Pease said.

Candle light is too bright for Gillislee.

The 5-foot-11, 209-pounder from DeLand, Fla., doesn't want to spend a single second speaking to the media, regardless of whether it's a group interview session or a one-on-one sit-down with a prominent national writer. He doesn't want to do postgame interviews, either, although he reluctantly -- and with much prodding from a UF official -- showed up last Saturday after he shredded LSU's defense for 146 yards and two touchdowns in Florida's 14-6 victory.

Gillislee didn't even want to do an on-camera interview on national television in the moments after the victory over the Tigers. He only agreed because he was appearing with UF coach Will Muschamp.

Gillislee isn't shy or nervous. He just doesn't see the need to spend any time talking about himself or what he's done on the field -- 548 yards, seven TDs, and an SEC-leading 109.6 yards per game.

"He wants to go to class, go to practice, watch film, and play," said Dan Apple, UF's assistant communications director and the person who is tasked with trying to convince Gillislee to do interviews. "He doesn't care about any of the other stuff."

The only way to get a glimpse into the personality of the player who patiently waited three years for the chance to be a feature back at Florida is through his teammates and coaches. They all agree Gillislee is a tireless worker who never complains and has a smile on his face every day.

Whether he's a chatterbox or a quiet kid depends on to whom you speak.

"He is [pretty talkative] with me," Pease said. "He's very personable. I love his personality. I love his attitude each day. ... He's very humble. He's always asking, 'What was this [running back] like? He's trying to be like some of the good ones that he knows either [running backs] coach [Brian] White or myself have been around."

Quarterback Jeff Driskel, however, said Gillislee doesn't talk much.

"He's definitely a quiet guy," Driskel said. "He keeps to himself. When he has something to say, it's important, so you're going to listen when he starts to talk. He's a funny guy. But he kind of keeps to himself sometimes."

Gillislee has always been somewhat anonymous. He rarely got on the field in his first three seasons, partly because he was battling a chronic ankle injury, but also because he was behind Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps.

He produced when he did play, though, gaining 930 yards on 145 carries (6.3 per carry) and scoring 10 touchdowns.

But with Demps and Rainey graduating after the 2011 season, the job as the Gators' main tailback was wide open heading into the spring. It wasn't for long. Gillislee quickly beat out redshirt sophomore Mack Brown and easily held off freshman Matt Jones when he arrived in July.

Finally, after three seasons, it was his chance to be in the spotlight.

"Yeah, it was difficult for me [to wait three years]," Gillislee said after the LSU game. "I was just going along, and I knew one day that my opportunity was going to come.

"Yeah, I was frustrated. Like I said, I put the team first, and whatever happened with the coaches, what they wanted, who they wanted in, I was satisfied. I wanted to win."

That attitude is why Muschamp loves to talk about Gillislee.

"Great example for everyone on our football team," Muschamp said. "This guy puts Florida before himself, and that's really hard nowadays with a lot of young people. They want everything now, and that's not the way Mike is. That's not the way he's built.

"I'll take Gilly over anybody. I tell him that all the time, and I mean that. I felt that way in spring and going into fall camp. He's a Will Muschamp guy. He never says anything. He just does his job. Lines up, runs the ball. If you ask him to block, he's going to block. If you ask him to catch it, he's going to catch it. He just is a really, really, really good football player. He does everything we ask him to do. He's a program guy."

A real quiet one.