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Hale County's Gilliam has high expectations for senior season

Hale County’s Tyler Gilliam broke his right hand and tore his labrum in his left shoulder during 2012 baseball season, but has recovered and the All-State nose guard and Jacksonville State commitment is ready for the season. (Photo by Andrew Carroll)

MOUNDVILLE | Football is tough enough without injuries, but somehow Tyler Gilliam overcame a couple and made it through his junior season at Hale County High School.

Gilliam, a nose guard, has plenty of reasons to feel better about his senior year. For one, he’s feeling better. Gilliam, who had a broken right hand and a torn labrum in his left shoulder, made the Class 2A All-State first team last season.

Gilliam recalled that his stepfather, Hale County defensive coordinator Royce Brehm, woke him up to tell him about the All-State recognition, and a few weeks later a certificate arrived from the Alabama Sports Writers Association.

“I was just happy that I made All-State because I worked hard all year,” Gilliam said. “I played all season with a cast on my hand. It was wrapped up like a club. I tore my labrum playing baseball (in 2012), and it’s just been torn ever since.”

The break has healed, so Gilliam can use his right hand to enhance his tackling technique. He didn’t have shoulder surgery, but he underwent rehabilitation to improve flexibility.

Gilliam made 62 solo stops and 53 assists for a total of 115 tackles. He had 19 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. He finished the season with two blocked kicks, one fumble recovery and one touchdown.

“Every game I go into I’m either getting double-teamed or triple-teamed,” said Gilliam, who is 6-foot-1 and 285 pounds. “I’ve got to work hard so I can help the linebackers flow through it and make tackles.

“I just listened to Coach (Joey) Milligan and Coach (Brehm). They taught me everything I know, really. I’ll bull-rush about 5 yards and see which way they’re going. Then I’ll just throw the center around and just get to the ball as quick as I can.

“I was a little bit natural,” Gilliam said of his strength. “But after I got with Coach (Jeff) Cameron, he got me to where I am now. These last three years, he got me really strong.”

Gilliam’s efforts were noticed by college recruiters, and during the summer he committed to Jacksonville State.

“I really like JSU and their coaching staff,” he said. “That’s where I want to go.”

Hale County posted a 4-7 record last season, 4-3 in Region 4. The Wildcats lost to Luverne in the first round of the playoffs.

“I’m going to give my team all I’ve got,” Gilliam said. “I’m going to push myself a lot more because it is my senior year as a Hale County Wildcat. I’m hoping my team will back me up and play their hearts out with me, so we can make it past the first round and, hopefully, win it this year.”

Milligan, who is starting his second season as the Wildcats’ head coach, said Gilliam should have high expectations.

“He did everything that we expected out of him last year, and we’ve kind of built our entire defense around Tyler’s ability and what he offers,” Milligan said. “We’re excited about him being healthy, and we think he’s going to be able to live up to his billing.

“He’s so strong, and that adds to the success our linebackers have. If he’s drawing two blockers, somebody’s free to make tackles. He’s just a very hard-nosed player. He plays with a very fast motor and gets to the football. A lot of times I think linemen are surprised at his burst off the line of scrimmage, and he’s in the backfield before they know what’s going on.”

Milligan said he doesn’t expect Gilliam to coast now that he has a college offer.

“We felt like it would give him a sense of relief that, “Now that part’s over, I can just go play football,’ ” Milligan said. “We’ve been very pleased with his summer work. We’ve been very pleased with his first two weeks of fall practice. He’s pushing to prove that what he does have and what he’s accomplished, that he deserves it.”

Reach Andrew Carroll at or at 205-722-0223.