"Stephon was one of those guys that you wish all of your players were. He has the character, the humbleness and the unbelievable work ethic," Stephon GIlmore's high school coach, Strait Herron, told buffalobills.com.
It's those qualities that prompted Gilmore's high school in South Carolina to name a football award after him.
The first ever "Gilmore" award was presented at the 2012 South Pointe High School football banquet last Wednesday by Stephon's mother Linda. The award recognizes students who have "Gilmore" qualities: work ethic, humbleness and a goal-driven attitude.
"The two things I have always seen in Stephon is his confidence and his competitiveness," said Herron. "Those two things make him different than any player I have ever coached. When he goes in the lineup, and I still see it today, he's the same Stephon. You can see confidence in every one of his actions. He goes out and plays as hard as he can. I would love to see all of our players like that."
"I really love the game of football and I try not to let anyone outwork me," said Gilmore. "I have fun playing the game and it's som
ething I love to do. I will never forget the day I was drafted by the Buffalo Bills with the 10th overall pick. It was a blessing that I can only thank God for in this chapter of my life."
Gilmore - considered by many as a rising star in the defensive backfield - didn't always play cornerback, either. For most of his career at South Pointe, Stephon was the starting quarterback. Herron recalls the days when Gilmore wore number five.
"We created the award because, from a football standpoint, we don't want people to forget the Stephon era. We once had a joke around here that our best play would come when we snapped the ball to 'five.' We don't want to forget those years and those types of people," Herron told buffalobills.com.
"I would like to thank the South Pointe coaches, teachers and staff that have helped me along the way," Gilmore's remarks at the ceremony read. "Without you all pushing me and making sure I'm on the right track, I wouldn't be where I am now."
The Gilmore award is just one step that South Pointe is taking to remember the Bills cornerback. In the next few years, the relatively-new South Pointe High School will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary. Herron says that although they haven't retired Gilmore's jersey yet, they have a big plan to commemorate Gilmore and retire his jersey at the school's anniversary.
"The Gilmore award is our first step in congratulating Stephon for making it to the NFL. He's a great representative of our school."
Below is a copy of Gilmore's full speech from the banquet.
Over the years football has been a huge part of my life and has brought me a long way. I have always been dedicated 100% to everything that I have chosen to participate in. The game of football will always have rough spots, such as the hard days of practice or injuries that you may encounter, but I always kept my faith and continued to push through. God has helped me accomplish everything I wanted in life on and off the football field. Without him I wouldn't be I'm the position I'm in now. I always wanted to make my mother and father proud of their son because my childhood had a direct impact on my performance in sports. My mom was always strict on me about my grades because that was another major thing that I needed to be focused on in order to be successful in life. I really love the game of football and I try not to let anyone outwork me. I have fun playing the game and it's something I love to do. I will never forget the day I was drafted by the Buffalo Bills with the 10th overall pick. It was a blessing that I can only thank God for in this chapter of my life. Being able to show my siblings that I could be successful was all the more motivation in my eyes. Not only did I make it, I still work hard as though it never happened because in the game of football you have to prove yourself every time you put that helmet on. I am still on my quest to become the best cornerback in the NFL. I would like to thank the South Pointe coaches, teachers and staff that have helped me along the way. Without you all pushing me and making sure I'm on the right track, I wouldn't be where I am now. To the players, whichever path you choose in life, be sure to put 100% in and you will reap the benefits tenfold. It's an honor to name an award after me knowing that one day I was once sitting in the chairs you all were sitting in. God bless and good luck with your futures!