A Football Life: Sergio Gilliam

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Sergio Gilliam enjoyed a successful career as a defensive back in arena football. Now he’s passing along the lessons he’s learned as the defensive backs coach of the Massachusetts Pirates. His players have become one of the top units in the National Arena League.

A former DB with the Clemson Tigers, Gilliam grew up in Greer, South Carolina playing several sports.

“I always played football growing up but I also played baseball, track and basketball. I did love baseball until I started to run track. My favorite events were the 100, 200, 4x1 and the high jump,“  he said.

After high school it was on to Clemson, where he became a starter in his junior year. Gilliam was a first teamer his final two seasons and finished his career with 64 tackles with two interceptions and one touchdown.

In 2010 he started his indoor football career with 35.5 tackles and three interceptions splitting time with the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz and the Arizona Rattlers. Gilliam came into his own with the Kansas City Command in 2011 leading his the team with nine interceptions and recorded 79.5 tackles. The following season he picked off six more passes while making 70.5 stops.  The next two years saw him in Pittsburgh playing for the Power where he complied 11 interceptions and 151 tackles during that stretch. 2015 saw Gilliam going back out west to Spokane where he had 55 tackles and two interceptions. In 2016 he put up solid numbers in Portland with five picks and 48 stops.

Then came the experience of a lifetime as he played defensive back for the Shanghai Skywalkers in the China Arena Football League.

“That was an experience that I was looking forward to when I first heard about it. When it finally came about I was able to be a part of it. I enjoyed it with a great group of guys, not just my team in Shanghai but the entire CAFL community. The people involved worked hand in hand and that made for a great experience, “he said.  

That was where he first started to form a relationship with Pirates President Jawad Yatim and Head Coach Ameer Ismail as both were playing in China with the Dalian Dragon Kings.

“Kind of sort of,” said Gilliam. “We were not that familiar with each other. I did know that Jawad was trying to start a team up north.  I’m passionate about football. If I’m not playing then I want to be coaching so I reached out to him and told him if he was serious about it, I wouldn’t mind being a part of it. Now I’m enjoying it.  Ameer and Jawad bonded quickly and I’m glad to be a part of that bond also.”

His first taste of coaching was as a co-defensive coordinator with the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles in the Indoor Football League under head coach Matt Sauk.  Then Gilliam moved on to high school coaching in Pennsylvania.

“I went to build my resume as I still have a passion for the game. I took a positon with North Hills High School in Pittsburgh. It’s a 5A school. Go Indians,” he said with pride.

His next stop was in Worcester where his biggest adjustment was becoming familiar with new players and coaches.

“I try to carry myself as a professional in everything that I do.  I used to be a player myself so I try to be a players’ coach.  We’ve got a great group of guys and anytime you have a group that’s willing to listen, be disciplined and learn from you it makes the task a lot easier.”

 “I just want them to have fun, communicate and understand the game and how the players can help each other regarding the scheme. Once they watch film and understand the scheme they go out there and play and it becomes second nature. That’s when they can play fast.  It makes it easier on me when you have a great group of guys like we have in the back end.  They don’t complain. They come in ready to go to work and better themselves as a group and as individuals,” he said proudly.

Gilliam say’s every year brings a new chance to learn.

 “Each year is going to be different. Each year you can learn something from a teammate.  I just take each experience that I had and now that I’m coaching I try to plan for both the good and the bad that will come in arena football because there are four quarters and anything can happen.”

Gilliam feels that team building, being there for each other and the fan base makes a team successful.

“I’ve won championships. Some of the keys are just being in the community and thanking the fans, the comradery of the guys coming together and the brotherhood in the sport of football.  I think that carries a lot of weight. If everyone continues to do their job things will progress. We are a first year team and things are looking good so hopefully we can continue to strive for a championship. We let a couple of games slip away, but for a first year team we are doing great and so far it’s looking good.”

The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the National Arena League (NAL). The Pirates play all home games at the DCU Center located at 50 Foster St. Worcester, MA. 01608. Pirate Nation Season Ticket Memberships for the 2018 season are now available. Pirate Nation Memberships start as low as $60.00. To become a Pirate Nation Season Ticket member or for more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508) 452-MASS (6277), email contact@masspiratesfootball.com or visit www.masspiratesfootball.com. Single game tickets are available online at ticketmaster.com or the DCU Center Box Office. For group outings please call Kara Mancini at 508-929-0125 or email kmancini@dcucenter.com. Follow the Pirates on facebook at facebook.com/MAPirates on Instagram @mass.pirates, as well as Twitter @mass_pirates.

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