Gillislee hopes to bounce back in 2nd season with Patriots

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Mike Gillislee, the former UF standout, is with the NFL's New England Patriots. [News-Journal/Lola Gomez]

By Chris Boyle
GateHouse Media Services

DELAND — When he attended DeLand High School, Mike Gillislee earned the nickname “Mike Sco,” which he loosely attributes to his ability to score touchdowns. For the first three quarters of the 2017 NFL season, Gillislee’s first with the New England Patriots, it looked like he was going to do a whole lot of scoring.

He found the end zone three times in the opening game against Kansas City, but as the season wore on, Gillislee rarely saw the field again. Even before his dazzling debut, Gillislee said he never felt like himself last fall.

“I don’t believe in excuses at all,” Gillislee said. “This year, I’m healthy and ready to go. I put last year in the past. It didn’t go as I planned, and that wasn’t me at all.”

The former University of Florida standout, who hosted a free camp for more than 200 kids at Spec Martin Stadium on Saturday afternoon, may need to show up in a big way when veterans report to Patriots training camp on July 25 just to crack the 53-man roster.

After leading the league in yards per carry in 2016 and signing a two-year deal worth $6.4 million to leave the Buffalo Bills, Gillislee appeared in only one of New England’s final 11 games, sustaining a sprained MCL in Week 16. He was shut down for the Patriots’ postseason run, which ended with an eventual loss to Philadelphia in the Super Bowl.

Gillislee said he was dealing with hamstring injuries as far back as April 2017, his first trip to the Patriots facility in Foxborough, Mass. In total, he ran the ball 104 times for 383 yards — an average of 3.7 per carry — and five touchdowns, the last of which came in the Week 16 win over Buffalo.

“I missed camp and (the coaches) kind of just had to plug me in,” Gillislee said. “It’s one of those things where I never really got to show the coaches what I can do coming from a different team. Now I’ve got a year under my belt and I was there throughout all the workouts this offseason. I look to return this year.”

He’ll have plenty of competition, given the state of the Patriots’ roster and the revolving-door mentality the team has traditionally employed with its ball-carriers.

Since the end of the season, New England signed former Cincinnati Bengals starter Jeremy Hill and spent a first-round draft pick on Georgia’s Sony Michel, adding to a backfield which already included Gillislee, Rex Burkhead and James White.

Gillislee has been in this position, presumably battling for one of the final roster spots, before. In 2015, he was released by the Miami Dolphins before later landing in Buffalo and rejuvenating his career.

Knowing he’ll likely need to beat out Hill for the last spot in the running back room, Gillislee has added muscle, tipping the scale at 216 pounds in OTAs, and worked on his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

“I know my worth,” Gillislee said. “I know what I’m capable of doing. Last year wasn’t me.”

Chris Boyle is a sports writer for the Daytona Beach News-Journal. He can be reached at chris.boyle@news-jrnl.com

4 COMMENTS

  1. I really like this young man….and loved his game. He was better than I thought when he was at DeLand High School in the backfield with a young Pop Saunders. Funny…I saw those guys play Sanford Seminole who at the time had Andre Debose, Ray Ray Armstrong and Darren Dye…all 5 stars. Debose was incredible and destroyed them, but never got to the level of being the next Percy Harvin…I believe due to poor QB play and injuries. Gillislee persevered and got his turn in 2012 to be the man and delivered.

    Props!

  2. I really like Mike Gillislee – he was a solid performer at UF and sounds ready to compete for a roster spot at New England. I have faith in his ability to get the job done (I believe God is smiling at him as we speak). GO GATORS!!!

  3. Mike Gillislee was possibly the most underrated back to ever play at Florida. If there was one positive of the Muschamp era, it was watching him run in 2012, specifically in the wins against LSU and FSU. Keep grindin’ dude

  4. Karma isn’t something to treat lightly. The Bills gave him a chance when his career was going nowhere, and he thrived in their power blocking scheme. He took his new success and went for the money. NE runs a different kind of offense which relies on Brady’s arm. It doesn’t surprise me that things haven’t worked out.

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