By John Ingoldsby, Player Engagement Insider
There seems to something special about Stephon Gilmore.
Certainly, the Patriots thought so when they went out of character at the outset of free agency to give the Buffalo Bills cornerback one of their biggest guaranteed contracts ever for $65 million over five years.
Clearly they liked what they saw from the Pro Bowler on the field, but they also were likely impressed with his high character off the field, ranging from hosting a free high school football camp and donating game tickets to the Boys & Girls Club to wearing Cleats for a Cause and winning the Bills’ Ed Block Courage Award.
With all this anticipation, the 6’1” 190-pounder met the media recently in New England, and they too had to like what they saw and heard.
The thoughtful South Carolina native who stayed in-state to play for the USC Gamecocks is clearly embracing his new surroundings, attending Boston Celtics playoff game with his new teammate while learning the Patriot Way.
“The biggest thing I noticed is that the guys welcomed me, and they’re some great teammates,” beamed Gilmore, adding that “the secondary welcomed me in and they said if I have any questions to ask them.”
His first question was to fellow cornerback and second-year player Cyrus Jones about obtaining his number 24 jersey.
“I just asked him ‘can we do it?’ and we just came to the conclusion that we were going to switch, and he was genuine enough to do it so I was happy for it,” explained the five-year Bills veteran. “I just always wanted the number since that’s what a lot of guys I looked up to wore so that’s the one number that I always loved.”
With good reason since Gilmore mentioned that Johnathan Joseph and Sheldon Brown are from his hometown of Rock Hill, SC, that Champ Bailey was one of his favorites, while also articulating his familiarity with former Patriots Ty Law and Derrelle Revis wearing that number quite well in Foxboro.
Speaking of his hometown, he also has remained attached by hosting a free “Skills and Drills” youth football camp at his alma mater South Pointe High School, where he along with teammate Jadeveon Clowney helped the school win its first state title in 2008.
He also paid tribute to his hometown upbringing while with the Bills when he donated tickets to the Boys & Girls Club, which he belonged to as a boy.
And just this past December, he joined in the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign by wearing a purple pair of cleats in support of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Not surprisingly, with this focus on giving back, as well as fighting back from injury, he was named the Bills’ Ed Block Courage winner for “professionalism, great strength, dedication and serving as a community role model,” and received the award in March along with the 31 other representatives from each NFL team.
Of course, some of those very teams were interested in signing a star like Gilmore.
“There were a couple of teams that wanted me, but I let my agent do his job,” stated the speedy secondary star. “The Patriots wanted me, and it was an easy decision.”
A choice that both sides are bound to benefit from both on and off the field.
John Ingoldsby is the President and Founder of IIR Sports, Inc. (www.IIRSports.com), a sports media firm based in Boston. He has covered the NFL throughout his career that began as a newspaper reporter/editor, which includes articles in Bloomberg BusinessWeek magazine (NFL Player Engagement), London-based Financial Times newspaper (NFL's international strategy), the Philadelphia Daily News (annual NFC Coaches Breakfast) and the Boston Globe (Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll).