Player number 9 on the Bearcats Blog countdown has something in common with player 13. They were teammates. Zach Collaros threw many passes his way. 8 and 9 probably could have been flipped. That's the thing when you end up picking nits about some of your favorite players to wear a Cincinnati uniform. This player is recent, but not recent enough that I could ever write about him. That player is Mardy Gilyard.
Marshwan 'Mardy' Gilyard is known not just for his play, but for his story. His story would have been great even if he weren't a great player. His story was even better because he was a great player. Gilyard started off as a corner back at UC. He was mainly a special teams player. Like a lot of college kids, he didn't like school. Unlike a lot of college kids, he had a scholarship and not being a student made him lose it. Since he had registered for classes, he had to pay his tuition. Gilyard crashed with friends and worked 3 jobs to pay the money he owed. Brian Kelly came to Cincinnati and told Mardy that he could have his scholarship once again, as long as he paid off his debt. He did just that and played his final two seasons as a Bearcat.
Gilyard came to UC as a 2 star running back recruit, according to Rivals. As previously mentioned, Gilyard was moved to corner. He played mainly special teams his freshman season. He didn't see a ton of statistical action. He assisted on a tackle against Penn State. He made a solo tackle against Miami. He made 3 solo tackles against Pitt, which is pretty impressive. He had 2 tackles vs Rutgers in the season finale. By that time, Gilyard had worked his way into some kick returns. The very first one of his career showed the special player he was. He took the kick 60 yards. It was the longest return in 3 seasons for UC.
Mardy missed the entire 2006 season with him not being on the team and everything. He redshirted. While redshirted, he became the scout team special teams player of the year. When 2007 rolled around, Mardy had an opportunity. He took advantage of it. In his first game, he caught 8 passes for 134 yards and his 1st TD. The TD was a 56 yarder from Ben Mauk. Gilyard had 14 receiving yards against Oregon State, but he returned a punt 30 yards and blocked a punt. Gilyard blocked a punt the following game against Miami that turned into a safety. He also caught a TD. Gilyard had 44 yards the next week against Marshall and 43 against San Diego State. Mardy had 5 catches for 97 yards, including a 27 yard TD. Gilyard had 38 yards against Louisville and 45 yards against Pitt. Mardy had a big game against USF, 3 catches for 100 yards. He had 1 catch for 11 yards in the last 4 games of the season. He missed the regular season finale. He returned for the bowl game against Southern Miss, returning 2 kicks for 69 yards.
The sophomore season for Mardy Gilyard saw him emerge as the 3rd receiver. He had 36 catches for 536 yards and 3 TDs. He returned 15 kicks for a 25.9 yard average. He returned 5 punts for 50 yards. It was a pretty successful season for someone who crashed at his friend's places the year prior.
It was in 2008 when Marshwan became Mardy. He opened the year with a big game against Eastern Kentucky. He caught 6 passes for 101 yards and 2 TDs. He scored the first TD of the season on a 15 yard pass. He had a 47 yard pass he took to the house later in the first half. Gilyard did all he could to help Cincinnati hang with #4 Oklahoma. He caught 7 passes for 119 yards. With UC down 28-13, Gilyard broke a kick return 97 yards to the house. It was his first kick return for a TD and the first return for a TD in 13 years for the Bearcats. It would be the last stand UC would make against OU. His 246 kick return yards added with his 119 receiving yards set the UC record for all purpose yards in a game with 365. Mardy helped UC ring the Victory Bell against Miami, catching a 30 yard TD in a 6-69-1 TD performance. The Bearcat offense moved the ball very well against Akron with over 400 yards. Gilyard had 146 of those on 7 catches. He caught the only 2 UC TDs, from 14 and 67 yards. But UC turned the ball over twice. One of those was a Gilyard fumble. Akron took the lead off that turnover. UC won anyway. Mardy was boxed up the next 2 games, 2 catches for 30 yards, 4 catches for 35 yards, along with 2 carries for 10 yards.
After being contained, Gilyard broke out the rest of the season. He caught the only UC TD scored against UConn as part of a 7-87-1 TD game. Gilyard caught 4 balls for 98 yards and a TD against USF. But the thing people remember from that game is this.
It was a very touching moment. Fittingly, Mardy caught his TD on that drive. Gilyard was shut out through the air against West Virginia. So he had to take the opening kickoff 100 yards to score his TD for that game. It set the pace in the Bearcats upset win. Gilyard caught a 48 yard TD the following week against Louisville in a 5-73-1 TD day. Now his performances during this time were very good. Now they would be great. He caught 8 passes for 110 yards and 1 TD against Pittsburgh. The TD was a 39 yard reception that put UC up 21-7. Tony Pike completed 28 passes against Syracuse. 11 of them went to Gilyard. Pike had 272 yards, Gilyard had 114. Cincinnati was facing a little hangover in Hawaii after the Big East championship win against Syracuse. They trailed 24-22 with 5 minutes left. Mardy said "I got this." He caught a pass and broke 69 yards for a TD. The game winning TD as it would turn out. He had 7 catches for 136 yards and a score. Gilyard had a monster game in the Orange Bowl, 7 catches, 158 yards, 1 TD. His TD was on the opening drive when it looked like UC could score more than 7 points.
Mardy Gilyard broke some records in 2008. He had 81 receptions for 1,276 yards and 11 TDs. He returned 36 kicks for 997 yards and 2 TDs. Gilyard's receptions are the second most all time for a single season. They trail his teammate Dominick Goodman, who had 84. Gilyard's 1,276 yards are a UC record. His 11 TDs ranked 3rd all time. Gilyard was named the Big East Special Teams Player of the Year. He was first team All-Big East as a receiver and special teams player.
Gilyard continued his assault on the UC record books his senior season. He caught 8 passes for 89 yards and a TD in the season opening win. Gilyard was all over the field against Southeast Missouri State. The first time he touched the ball, he took a punt return 53 yards for a TD. It was his first and only punt return TD. In the second quarter, he had a 1 yard TD run. It was his only career rushing TD. He added TD receptions from 8 and 37 to cap a 3 TD quarter and a 4 TD half. It was Gilyard's masterpiece. He had 6-111-2 TDs, 1-2-1 TD, 53 punt return yards for 1 TD and 32 kick return yards. Gilyard didn't have quite the same numbers against Oregon State, 9 catches for 65 yards, 1 TD. But his TD was a 19 yard reception with 8 minutes left that put UC ahead by the final 28-18 margin. Mardy tore up Fresno State. He caught 9 passes for 177 yards and 2 TDs. His first TD was from 11 yards out. His second TD was a big one. Fresno had just cut the lead to 4. Gilyard caught a 23 yarder to put UC back up 11. They won by 8. Gilyard had 6-75-1 TD against Miami. He scored the final TD of the 37-13 win on a 23 yard reception. Gilyard had 5-75 against South Florida with 82 kick return yards and 5 rushing yards, but he didn't score a TD. It was the first time in 7 games he didn't score. Gilyard got in the end zone with 31 yard reception from Zach Collaros in a 17 point 3rd quarter to smash Louisville. Mardy had 4 catches for 82 yards and the score. He had 129 kick return yards. That game was the end of an incredible 15 game streak where Mardy scored at least 1 TD in 13 of them.
Things kept on rolling for Cincinnati and for #1. He had 6 catches for 62 yards against Syracuse. He had 55 punt return yards in that one. He had at least 100 all purpose yards in every game that season. He had at least 100 all purpose yards in the last 21 games of his career. The following game against UConn was an offensive explosion. Gilyard did not get in the end zone, but he smashed the UConn defense. He had a career game with 12 catches for 172 yards. He had 144 kick return yards. Gilyard was held to 3 catches for 22 yards against West Virginia. They clearly had his number. He had 98 kick return yards and 22 punt return yards. After 3 games without scoring, Mardy made up for lost time in the end zone against Illinois. After Illinois took a 7-0 lead, Gilyard took the kick back 90 yards for a TD. He caught an 11 yard TD pass in the second quarter. With UC up 12 in the 4th, Gilyard caught a 23 yard TD pass. That TD grab would be the record breaking 6th TD pass for Tony Pike. Mardy finished with 7 catches for 102 yards, 2 TDs, 131 kick return yards, 1 TD and 27 punt return yards.
The Big East title was on the line when Cincinnati traveled to Pittsburgh. The Bearcats were holding on to slim hopes of playing in the national title game as well. Things didn't look good when Bill Stull ran 3 yards for a score to put Pitt up 31-10 with 1:26 left in the first half. Mardy Gilyard changed the game in a hurry by taking the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a score. With UC down 14 in the 3rd, Gilyard caught a pass from Tony Pike and broke it for a 68 yard TD. When the Bearcats pulled within 2 with 5:46 left, Gilyard caught the game tying 2 point conversion from Tony Pike. Mardy took the kickoff to the UC 39. He caught 2 passes for 22 yards in the final drive. That capped off a tremendous 5 catch, 118 yard, 1 TD, 256 kick return yards, 1 TD performance. Mardy ended his career by catching 7 passes for 41 yards against Florida. He had 207 kick return yards.
Mardy Gilyard caught a UC record 87 passes his senior season. He had 87 receptions for 1,191 yards and 11 TDs. He ran 5 times for 16 yards and 1 TD. He had 1,281 kick return yards for 2 TDs and 202 punt return yards for 1 TD. Gilyard was once again named the Big East Special Teams Player of the Year. He was once again named first team All-Big East as a wide receiver and a kick returner. Gilyard finished 9th in the Heisman voting. Mardy led the Big East in catches, yards and TDs. He was 2nd in overall TDs. He was first in the Big East in kick return yards and 2nd in the NCAA.
For his career, Mardy Gilyard caught 204 passes for 3,003 yards and 25 TDs. He ran for 26 yards and 1 TD. He had 2,664 kick return yards and 4 TDs. Gilyard had 252 punt return yards and 1 TD. He ranks 4th in the Big East for decade in receptions. He is 2nd in receiving yards. He's tied for 5th in TDs. He is 2nd in receiving TDs. He led the Big East from 2000-11 in kick return yards. I know he ranks 2nd on that list, but they have Mardy Gilyard and Marshwan Gilyard as seperate people.
Why He Made the List
Hello, did you not read the first 1,900 words of this story? Mardy Gilyard is only the greatest statistical receiver to put on a Cincinnati uniform. No one caught more passes in a season. No one had more yards. No one had more TDs. Mardy Gilyard was one of the best to ever put on a UC uniform. He returned kicks at an extraordinarily high level to boot. He was truly an amazing players who's accomplishments at UC will not be forgotten.
What He's Doing Now
Mardy was drafted by the St Louis Rams. After catching 6 passes for 63 yards in 2010, he fell out of favor in St Louis. He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. In their first preseason game this year, he caught a 44 yard TD. You can find him on twitter @MardyGilyard.