Okay, so I admit using the word “magical” is a little much, but do you expect any less from me? First of all, it’s 6:00 in the morning as I write this. Second, I have a five-month-old child, which is basically the equivalent of having a drunk person that has lost the ability to speak in your house at all times. And finally, we all really do want to believe it was magical.
Mike Gillislee set lofty goals for himself entering the 2012 college football season–1,500 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns–and while the Florida Gators’ senior didn’t reach those goals, he did hit a milestone we’re all proud of. Gillislee capped off the regular season with 140 yards on the ground and two touchdowns against the Florida State Seminoles to give him 1,104 yards and 10 TDs on the season. Not only did he become the first true Gators’ running back to break the 1,000-yard mark since Ciatrick Fason did in 2004, but he also became the first to carry the ball 200 times or more and rush for 10 or more touchdowns since Fason. Tim Tebow did both and Trey Burton and Percy Harvin found the end zone 10 or more times, but Gillislee is the first running back to do it since Ron Zook patrolled the Gators’ sidelines. And now is as good a time as any to quickly move on from Zook and forget I even mentioned him.
Back to the wonders of the Gators’ rediscovered running game. Gillislee was a bright spot in a season that was about as odd as odd can be. But, as we saw against Florida State, he wasn’t alone. Overall, there weren’t many wow moments to the running game outside of Gillislee, but that’s also because Florida decided early on that he would be the go-to back as long as he remained healthy. Sure, Jeff Driskel has his moments and Burton had a few of those plays that made you believe in his aura once again, but the running game belonged to Gillislee. Although, we did see glimpses of the future and it made us smile.
For Gillislee though, we don’t know what that future is. He has one game remaining as a Florida Gator. It’s easy to imagine him getting plenty of carries against the Louisville Cardinals in the Sugar Bowl. He was the workhorse all season for an 11-1 Gators’ squad and both Will Muschamp and Brent Pease will want him to go out with a bang. Maybe not a Tebow-sized exit, but a good one all the same.
That game will bring an end to a career we hoped for more from, but got all we ever wanted during one final season. Years prior, we imagined a final season during which Gillislee would finally become the number one running back. Saying he didn’t disappoint would be an understatement. When the offensive line stepped up its play, Gillislee was great. When they were average, he was above it. When they were down, he was still the shining spot. Yes, he had better games than others and some that were nothing to praise, but we’re looking at the overall picture here.
We congratulate the Florida Gators on their successful 2012 season, but we single out Mike Gillislee. There are many reasons we’re looking forward to the Sugar Bowl, but watching Gillislee one final time is very high on the list.