Reggie Gilliam's path to the NFL is a tale of hard work, perseverance and finding any means necessary to carve out a role. It's those defining attributes, and more, that have propelled the Bills fullback to a place he'd never thought he'd reach.
Sunday, the 6-foot, 244-pound fullback inked a two-year extension through the 2024 season, cementing himself as an important contributor to the Bills' offensive identity.
"It's huge," he said. "Obviously it offers a lot of security, but it also offers the fact that they believe in me. And I'm out to prove them right."
In an age when fullbacks are increasingly rare to find across the NFL landscape, Gilliam fills the shoes of multiple roles on offense.
"Reggie's a Swiss Army knife," defensive end Greg Rousseau said. "You can plug him in at full back, tight end, running back. It doesn't matter."
Throughout his pursuit of a career in the NFL, Gilliam has had to go through obstacles at every turn. Playing at Westland High School in Galloway, Ohio — a small school that had yet to produce a Division I football player until Gilliam's arrival — Gilliam was already at a disadvantage from a recruiting and visibility standpoint.
Luckily, a recruiter from Toledo was impressed enough by Gilliam's tape to extend him an invitation to walk-on, despite his high school team only winning seven games total during the years he was there.
"I walked on, was a walk-on for two years, earned a scholarship my third year, and the rest is history," Gilliam said.
Well, not quite. There was an additional roadblock of Gilliam's Pro Day getting canceled by the pandemic and having to find his way as an undrafted free agent — the NFL adjacent to a walk-on.
"It's really been like that my whole life. I feel like I've just kind of been that walk-on mentality forever," the fullback shared. "I've never been somebody's first choice, you know what I mean? I was like I've got to go and prove myself, and here I am doing the same thing."
As philosophies by NFL offenses have shifted away from utilizing the fullback position, Bills general manager Brandon Beane still sees value in the position, hence why Gilliam was given a chance with the team as a UDFA in 2020.
"He just fits what we're doing," Beane said. "Not a lot of teams have fullbacks but we still like that option in our offense."
Gilliam played in 16 games during the 2021 season and made five starts, both of which marked career highs. His presence is especially felt in short-yardage and goal line situations. Now that the fullback is a more permanent staple of the roster, the Bills are trying to be creative in the ways they get Gilliam involved.
"I thought you saw Reggie as the year went on last year started to get some more reps with the offense and become a versatile back," Beane said. "We even did some hurry-up stuff, two-minute type offense with him out there and he's smart enough to handle that."
Gilliam said Sunday that he's thankful for the opportunity to continue being a part of the Bills organization and hopes his story can serve as an inspiration to others who may face similar obstacles in achieving their own dreams.
"Just keep going. Keep answering the bell, every single day," Gilliam said.
Scroll to see photos from the hottest day of training camp so far at St. John Fisher.