August 2009

John Gilliam

NFL Football Player

John Gilliam is considered by football fans and players to be one of the best wide receivers to ever play the game.  Over the course of his 11 year NFL career, Gilliam set all-time records and established himself as one of its best players. John Gilliam, nicknamed Head by some, has worn many hats during his lifetime from All Pro for the Minnesota Vikings to motivational speaker and child advocate. John Gilliam is currently the President and CEO of John Gilliam Enterprises, Inc.

John Gilliam was born on August 7, 1945 in Greenwood, S. C., the second child of James and Mattie Gilliam. A phenomenal athlete, Gilliam excelled at nearly every sport at Brewer High School.  He starred in basketball, track and field, and football. Known nationally for his basketball skills, Gilliam did not start playing football until his senior year after accepting a dare from the head football coach, Luther Bradley, who recognized his speed. He became an All-State Player and an All American.

His All-American status attracted college recruits from several universities. He accepted a scholarship to South Carolina State College (now University) and became one of the most spectacular football players ever to play at the University. Gilliam was twice voted All American by the Pittsburgh Courier, and selected All-SIAC wide receiver, 1964-67. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education and Biology. Gilliam was drafted in 1967 by the New Orleans Saints in the second round. He became the first football player from South Carolina State to be drafted by the NFL.

His stellar NFL career began by returning the initial kick off ninety nine yards for the first game for the newly franchised New Orleans Saints. From the very beginning, he piled up the yards and touchdowns and did not stop for eleven years. Gilliam twice led the league in pass receptions, caught 382 passes for 7,056 yards, and scored 48 touchdowns. He averaged 25.5 yards per kickoff return during his career in the NFL.

Gilliam received many awards and honors during his professional football career. As a member of the Minnesota Vikings, he played in two Super Bowls and was named to the Pro Bowl in 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1975. He was inducted into the South Carolina State University Hall of Fame in 1986, the State of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992, and the Greenwood High School Hall of Fame in 2005.

In the years since playing in the NFL, Gilliam has become a very active participant in community, civic and religious affairs: serves on several boards, supports philanthropic causes such as children’s hospitals, high schools, the homeless and senior citizens; raises funds by participating in golf tournaments and other events; serves as a motivational speaker as well as sponsors THE JOHN GILLIAM ANNUAL TENNIS TOURNAMENT for youth in the Atlanta area.   He is a Life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. He and his wife, Fannie, an attorney in Atlanta, have four children and three grandchildren.