UAPB’s Gillan Measures Up to Draft Potential

Football

 PINE BLUFF, Ark. –  Arkansas at Pine Bluff football player Jamie Gillan admits this was a bittersweet moment as he prepared to walk out the Thomas May J Fieldhouse for the last time this year and prepares to hopefully hear his name called this weekend in the 2019 NFL Draft.

“I would like to thank those who paved the way for me as I start my next chapter,” said Gillan, who was the punter and kicker for UAPB football from 2015-18. “The coaching staff, the players, the fans, the community, (former Head) Coach Monte Coleman, (current Head) Coach Cedric Thomas, Jack Ray and especially Special Teams Coach Thomas Sheffield for all that they have done to get me ready for this opportunity.”

Known as the “Scottish Hammer,” his popularity and draft prospects rose during the offseason with tremendous workouts, as well as gaining notoriety on NFL Network. He had the opportunity to speak with several teams during his private workouts on campus, including a meeting with an NFL general manager. Those conversations went well and gave Gillan a better understanding of which team would likely be the best fit for him.

“It was unreal, honestly, just being treated like royalty for punting a football,” Gillan said. “The experience that I had last year was so good. It was just more motivation to try to get there and live that all again.”

In 2018, Gillan led the SWAC with an average of 42.9 yards per punt to rank 13th in FCS football with a net average of 37.5 yards. More than a fourth of his punts — 19 of 71 — traveled more than 50 yards, and 27 of his punts were downed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Gillan also had 31 touchbacks, which ranked 16th nationally, and allowed only 17.4 yards per return.

Football fans rarely feel any semblance of joy when the punter trots onto the field, but Gillan’s ability to flip the field with his booming punts gave the Golden Lions’ faithful reason to cheer on fourth down.

“When I would hit a good ball, I heard the crowd get loud, and it took me a while to realize that was for the punt,” Gillan said. “As soon as I realized that, it was the biggest compliment I could get, just hearing the crowd appreciate a skill that isn’t often appreciated at most places. It made me really happy getting that response.”

Gillan arrived at UAPB in 2015 after traveling more than 4,253 miles from his hometown of Edinburgh,UK. But the change in his mentality from an untested punter playing his first American football games in high school to a star on the UAPB football team may be just as dramatic. On the field, the now smiling bodybuilder figure and self-assured senior hardly resembles the freshman who battled nerves before each punt.
“Now I’m just excited to go out there and hit a good ball,” Gillan said. “I just feel very confident going out there.”

This year, Gillan combined a grueling off-season strength and conditioning program with a strict weekly regimen to reach the elite levels of his position once again.

“Last year, I felt like I was making a plan that works for me, and I gained some of that from my sophomore year as to what helps and what doesn’t help,” Gillan said. “Now I feel like I have a routine down pat that I’m going to do pregame, that I’m going to do during the game, and that I do throughout the week. Each week is the exact same in how I approach it. I think that’s what I did differently this year, knowing the plan and following it.”

Gillan lists punts against Florida International, including one he booted a career-long 80 yards, where he set a school record, as one of his favorite performances from the season.
In the four years at UAPB, Gillan never had a punt blocked or a kickoff returned for a touchdown.

“I had a lot of fun out there, especially on the sidelines,” Gillan said. “If we’re doing well and I hit a big kick, I just come off the field fired up.  It’s always a good feeling nailing a good punt or a kickoff for a touchback.”