Westland Roundup: Buffalo Bills’ Reggie Gilliam cherishes ties to alma mater

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Former Westland football standout Reggie Gilliam, who now plays for the Buffalo Bills, visited the school in early May to work out and connect with former coaches and teachers. “I think about this place all the time. ... I didn’t think when I was here I would end up where I am now,” he said.

Back at his alma mater, former Westland football standout Reggie Gilliam had a chance to reflect on his high school days and how his time with the Cougars set him up for success.

Now preparing for his second season with the Buffalo Bills, Gilliam visited the area in early May to visit friends and family and return to Westland, where he worked out and connected with former coaches and teachers. He also had a chance to mingle with athletes in the weight room.

As a rookie last season, Gilliam played tight end and was a member of the special teams. He had two receptions for 16 yards and a touchdown and was a valuable blocker on offense as the Bills came within one win of reaching the Super Bowl.

“There’s some great memories here (at Westland), seeing my former teachers, old faces that I knew,” Gilliam said. “I think about this place all the time. When I was here, we didn’t win many games. It was very humble beginnings. I didn’t think when I was here I would end up where I am now. ... It’s just a blessing to be able to climb that ladder.” 

The 6-foot, 244-pound Gilliam started on the bottom of that ladder and ascended to the top. He walked on at the University of Toledo in January 2016, eventually earning a full scholarship and a starting position at tight end for his junior and senior seasons. 

After he wasn’t selected in the 2020 NFL draft, he signed a three-year free-agent contract with the Bills and helped them win the AFC East Division title. Buffalo lost to Kansas City 38-24 in the AFC championship game. 

With the Bills being a contender to reach their first Super Bowl since the 1993 season, Gilliam is looking forward to the 2021 season. 

He also has a message for current Westland student-athletes who hope to follow in his footsteps. 

“My message would be it doesn’t matter how many games you win,” Gilliam said. “I know it may feel like that because you see all these other kids going to the higher-end schools here and getting Division I scholarships, but as long as you go somewhere like here and play your heart out, you’ll be found. Any college scout can find anybody that can play ball well.” 

Gilliam played running back and linebacker for the Cougars, earning first-team all-OCC-Central Division and honorable mention all-district honors in Division I as a senior. That season, he rushed for 565 yards and eight touchdowns on 87 carries and had 18 catches for 280 yards and three scores. 

He also played for the boys basketball program as a senior.

His former football coach at Westland, Kyle Goebbel, got a chance to reminisce with Gilliam.

“To have a former player from Westland in the NFL is an incredible example of what hard work, believing and being a great person can achieve,” said Goebbel, who is a social studies teacher at the school but no longer coaches the Cougars. “Ever since Reggie left Westland, he has been the best role model any coach could ask for to show younger players. Reggie makes every person who has worked with him or just met him extremely proud.” 

Former athletics director Greg Burke remains in contact with Gilliam. 

“Reggie was a complete student-athlete,” Burke said. “He worked hard in the classroom. He worked hard on the field and court. Watching him play, he never half-stepped anything. He was always totally in and focused on what needed to be done – classroom and field and court. 

“It’s not so much his physical ability, it’s more of his mental abilities that were able to turn into physical abilities. ... It’s a hell of a story. It’s from my old-school days of coaching and being involved with kids, the total story that I like to hear.” 

Westland's Brady Gray tries to avoid the tag of Westerville Central catcher Justin Fleetwood on April 28. The Cougars open the Division I district tournament May 17 at Briggs.

Baseball team

set for postseason 

The baseball team will look for its first Division I district tournament win since 2011 when it visits 34th-seeded Briggs on May 17. 

The Cougars, who beat Briggs 11-3 on May 11 in a regular-season contest, are seeded 37th of 47 teams. 

The winner visits fifth-seeded Olentangy Liberty in the second round May 19.  

“It’s a great opportunity for our program and Westland sports in general to earn our first playoff win in 10 years,” coach Brent Shannon said. “It’s the reason I took this job. I’m trying to build and give these kids something they can look back on and remember their time in Westland baseball. 

“We had the most wins in 16 years two years ago (when we went 9-17) and now we have the opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done in 10 years in winning a (tournament) game. We’re ready for the challenge. I’m ready and I know the boys are ready.” 

Westland was 8-14 overall and 0-11 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Westerville Central on May 12. 

The Cougars lost to New Albany 5-0 on May 10. 

“We played well, had guys on (base), opportunities to score, but just couldn’t drive them in,” Shannon said. “We’re hitting the ball and having better at-bats. We’re definitely heading in the right direction going into the tournament.”

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank