"I was a little worried he might pee down his leg, you know, the first game," MacIntyre said. "But he didn't. I told him to go to the restroom a couple times before he went out."
With a team-high 14 tackles, one sack and one pass break-up, Gillam proved in his first-ever Division-I football appearance that MacIntyre's worries were unfounded.
With his Rocky Mountain Showdown start on Sunday, 19-year-old Gillam became just the second true freshman in Buffs' history to start a season opener at inside linebacker. The first was 2004 Big 12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year Jordan Dizon, who coincidentally, also wore No.
Gillam laughed off his coach's comment, but admitted he did feel some pre-game jitters. The freshman said he felt "relieved" to have his first game, a 41-27 win over in-state rival Colorado State, behind him.
"Before the game I was extremely nervous going out (for) my first game," he said. "Once we got out there and everything I just finally realized it's just football."
In his first game Gillam helped breathe some new life into a Colorado defense that gave up an average of 488.5 yards per game last season. Against the Rams, the Buffs defense gave up 295 yards of total offense.
His one sack came early in the first quarter after a bobbled snap to Rams quarterback Garrett Grayson. As Grayson scrambled to save the play, Gillam was there to push him out of bounds for a 17-yard loss.
But Gillam's biggest play of the game came in the fourth quarter when CSU went for it on fourth-and-2. Grayson connected with Rams wide receiver Joe Hansley, but Gillam was there to make the stop.
The somewhat shy 6-foot-3, 225-pound Gillam, who says he looks up to former Pro Bowl safety John Lynch, said humbly that he was just following orders.
"I just did what coach (MacIntyre) said and it worked," Gillam said, grinning.
Gillam followed MacIntyre from San Jose State and has topped the depth chart at inside linebacker since the spring. Though he has NFL aspirations, Gillam said his "fallback" plan is to become a physical therapist.
Defensive coordinator Kent Baer said he was impressed with the entire defense's maturity. In Gillam, who he called "unbelievable," Baer said he sees unlimited potential.
His teammate, senior captain linebacker Derrick Webb, agreed.
"He played awesome," Webb said. "I don't feel like he had any nerves, problems or whatever. He went out and played his game, played loose and I think he showed everybody what type of player he was."
Gillam went largely unnoticed as a senior at Foothill High School in Northern California. He was recruited by only three schools, one of which was San Jose State.
Fears about Gillam's bladder aside, MacIntyre said he's always known Gillam had potential.
"He's a player and I've always known he was a player since his junior year in high school," MacIntyre said, "He's up in the hills of California and nobody looked at him but us and I'm glad he's here."
Contact staff writer Sarah Kuta
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