SVSU redshirt freshman wide receiver Chad Gailliard was recently awarded with GLIAC Freshman of the Year honors.
The 19-year-old from Edsel Ford High School in Dearborn reeled in 42 catches and led the league with 934 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, while also posing as a significant threat on special teams.
The Freshman of the Year award was coupled with First Team All-GLIAC honors.
“We knew he had the potential, but we also knew he was going to have to make a lot of plays and get a lot of opportunities to make plays, which he did,” head coach Jim Collins said. “He had done some good things in camp, and then he got off to a good start in our first game [against Alderson Broaddus] where he scored a touchdown, and then in the next one [against Walsh] he scored a long touchdown, and I think that gave him the confidence and solidified where he was.”
Collins also noted that Gailliard’s superior season comes after an offseason in which he missed substantial action due to tonsil surgery.
“He didn’t spend a lot of time over the summer with our team because of the tonsil surgery,” Collins said. “He really had to prove himself in preseason camp and he obviously did.”
Coming up through youth, Gailliard only played a season or two of youth football and rather focused on basketball for much of middle school and high school.
Entering his junior year, Gailliard decided to go out for football, as his brother was a senior on the Edsel Ford squad. From there, he found success immediately and ultimately earned All-Conference and All-State Honorable Mention honors.
Despite the success, upon graduation, SVSU was still his only scholarship offer. After arriving in University Center and redshirting his freshman season, his love for the game only grew.
“Through that redshirt year, and then this past season, my love for the game has deepened so much,” Gailliard said. “I always liked football, but it definitely wasn’t what I think of it now. My drive has gone up, and I’m definitely more in love with the sport. I’m excited to keep working and getting better.”
The young receiver caught the attention of the entire conference, but especially his own quarterback throughout 2017.
“There were two things that impressed me that Chad did throughout the season,” quarterback Ryan Conklin said. “The first was that he somewhat came out of nowhere. We knew he was a tall, fast guy, but I’m not sure any of us imagined him having the season he did.
“Secondly, I was impressed that Chad kept his composure. He knew he was a top receiver in the league throughout the year, but he didn’t get a big head and didn’t fold under the pressure of performing week in and week out.”
While Gailliard made explosive plays in nearly every game of the season, his performances against Northern Michigan and Ashland especially stood out as some of the best individual performances the conference saw during the 2017 season.
Against Northern, Gailliard caught 13 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown. In the season finale against conference champion Ashland, Gailliard closed out his freshman campaign with six catches for 161 yards and a touchdown against one of the nation’s top secondary units.
Now that he has caught the attention of the rest of the conference, Gailliard is looking forward to improving even further heading into 2018.
“This is definitely just the beginning of what I hope is a lot more to come. I have a lot more to show,” Gailliard said. “I’ll need to become more of a route technician, getting better and running more routes and getting better overall and becoming a complete receiver.”
In addition to Gailliard, the Cardinals offense will be returning its quarterback, Conklin, its entire running back unit, along with a handful of wide receivers and offensive lineman.
Conklin, who earned All-GLIAC Honorable Mention honors, said that the sky is the limit for the unit, and the team as a whole, as it has many key defenders returning for 2018 as well.
“It’s apparent that we have a lot of talent coming back,” he said. “I’m extremely excited for next season and expect a lot of big plays and points put up on the scoreboard. We now have to outwork our competition for the next nine months. We can’t wait for that first game next fall.”
Conklin finished third in the GLIAC in both passing yards per game (211.7) and passing touchdowns (16) and was second in passing yards (2,329).
Also returning is running back Tommy Scott Jr., who anchored a deep and talented running back unit, rushing for a team-leading 948 yards and scoring five touchdowns. He rushed for over 100 yards in five separate contests for the Cardinals.
SVSU also returns Will Farr, a talented tight end who was awarded a medical redshirt after missing the 2017 season.
The SVSU defense also returns the likes of linebackers Michael Alexander and Justin Whitted, who both earned All GLIAC honors. Dillon Dixon, an anchor in the Cardinal secondary, also returns.
The team is back in the weight room beginning its offseason program that will continue all the way until the beginning of next season. The team is learning from the 2017 campaign, but all sights have moved toward the 2018 season.
Following a 5-6 season that saw several close games go against the Cardinals, SVSU feels championship caliber football is just around the corner, and plans to be vying for a NCAA playoff spot next fall.
“The energy is fantastic, the attitude is outstanding and this team is a group of guys that like each other and really enjoy the process,” Collins said. “There’s going to be high expectations next year; everybody’s going to have them and knows what this group could be capable of next year. Right now, we’re enjoying the process.”