Let it be said, let it be written, that on the 19th day of August, 2012, the legend of David Gilreath was born.
Perhaps that’s overstating things a bit.
But while the garbage time of a preseason game might be less than compelling to fans and media observers alike, make no mistake that rosters spots are won and lost during that time, and among players on the borderline, none made a more compelling case during late action of last night's 26-24 Steelers victory over Indianapolis than wide receiver David Gilreath.
Gilreath had four dazzling receptions for 78-yards, including a 41-yard catch and another in which he popped right up after taking a sharp hit from a Colts defender.
The undrafted, pint-sized Wisconsin product – he’s only 5’ 10" and relatively slight of frame at 169-pounds -- bounced around last year between three teams’ practice squads – Indianapolis, Buffalo and St. Louis – before being signed by Pittsburgh in January.
He knows his pursuit of an NFL dream is a long-shot, but he's undeterred - especially because his father won't let him get down.
“My dad is one of the main culprits – he stays in my ear about being consistent – and don’t give up – he keeps me up, keeps my confidence high, keeps me going,” Gilreath said.
Gilreath is a burner, though says he doesn’t know officially how fast he is, “I don’t know, but I don’t think anybody’s going to catch me from behind,” he laughed. With terrific speed and good hands, he could have an outside shot to make the team as a fifth receiver if he can contribute on special teams, which is clearly his bailiwick.
In 2010, he was Wisconsin’s special teams MVP, and was the Big Ten’s all time leader in kick off return yards, and was the only player in the entire history of Wisconsin football to score a receiving, rushing, punt return, and a kick return touchdown.
“It’s all about opportunity,” Gilreath said. And seizing it. He said that Steelers coaches have said that there could be seven receivers on the roster or only four, depending on which ones step up and make the most of said opportunities.
“If you go out and make plays you can find your way on this roster, if you don’t you can find your way back home – it’s a pretty firm line that they draw.”
“You see examples all around the league – you read Wikipedia on guys that have bounced around [before making it in the NFL] – that gives me motivation,” Gilreath said. "It's that journey -- it's a better story to tell if I do make the team."
Most notably on the Steelers, James Harrison was cut four times before making the roster and going on to become one of the most dominant defenders in the NFL.
Three credits shy of his sociology degree from Wisconsin, he was still finishing reports and papers from his for-credit internship with the ESPN Radio affiliate in Madison while in camp with the Steelers. He’s also stopped into the Pitt football facility to visit with head coach Paul Chryst – formerly of the Wisconsin staff.
If football doesn’t work out, he’d like to join Chryst in the coaching ranks, but right now he’s thrilled “Just to be in the black and yellow out there …” he said, before a reporter corrected him that it’s black and gold, regardless of what Wiz Khalifa says.
If he sticks, Gilreath will have time enough to get it right.