Captain of the Ship: Mardy Gilyard’s Arena Football Impact and Legacy
By: Sam Gordon
In 2010, 98 players were taken ahead of Mardy Gilyard in the NFL Draft. Though Gilyard’s career did not last long in the NFL, his journey as an arena football player would be among the best the indoor game has had to offer.
After starting off his career in Jacksonville and Monterrey, the Cincinnati alum was brought into Massachusetts by owner/president Jawad Yatim to kickstart a new franchise. It paid dividends.
“I know Mardy was in a tough situation down in Monterrey the previous season and his numbers didn’t necessarily reflect the type of player he was,” Yatim told masspiratesfootball.com. “I was looking for a veteran type receiver to come in and help guide some of the younger receivers we had on the roster, at the same time coming into our inaugural season I was looking to make somewhat of a splash to help garner some attention around our brand. I felt he was a good fit for us in those regards and he has exceeded my expectations as far as what he’s done for us on and off the field.”
In his first year with the Massachusetts Pirates, Gilyard recorded 69 receptions for 747 yards and 19 touchdowns.
But it was not just Gilyard’s talent on the field that made him so valuable to the team.
Former Pirates receiver Devonn Brown learned so much from Gilyard not only as a player, but how to conduct himself off the field.
“He really helped me understand the indoor game and just hitting different angles, he’s just a dog man,” Brown said. “He brings that mentality on every play fighting for the ball and I definitely took that from Mardy. He just helped me enhance my game moving forward from my first to second year.”
What separated Gilyard from all of his other teammates according to Brown, was the receiver mentoring him even if Gilyard was having a bad day or down with an injury.
“Even when he was down, he still was in my ear giving me details about what I needed to do in the box saying, ‘Hey Dev focus on this. He’s playing you like this,’” Brown said. “He’s so detailed and you don’t get much better than that.”
Even in his 30’s, Mardy still got better.
In his second season in teal, He caught 84 passes for 950 yards and 29 touchdowns. Earning him First-Team All-NAL honors.
His talent has earned him the respect of some of the NAL’s best receivers. Including Jacksonville Sharks receiver Devin Wilson.
“I was always a fan of his and he’s definitely been very talent since the beginning,” Wilson said. “Seeing someone who was drafted come into the arena game who I looked up to growing up was kind of cool. Seeing someone who was a childhood icon who has been at the highest level who conducts himself as a person just like you and very down to Earth, it was just very eye opening for me and welcoming.”
Pirates quarterback Sean Brackett, whom Gilyard has had his most success with, boiled Gilyard and his legacy down to one aspect. His work ethic.
“You never gotta worry about whether Mardy is coming to play,” Brackett said. “He’s a gamer and the passion he has for the game is so easy and clear to see. It doesn’t matter if your six-years-old or 60-years-old, you can definitely see that passion.”
While Brackett loves all of the work Gilyard puts on the field, the 2018 National Arena League MVP pointed to what Gilyard brings to the community when the final whistle blows.
“It’s always great to see after games, Mardy holding court with all the little kids and sitting down with them,” Brackett said. “He has accomplished so much in football and it’s awesome to see him give back to the kids and the community in Worcester coaching, teaching and just being around for the youth. I can definitely speak for him that It’s a wild journey, but I think that he is exactly where he needs to be. Mardy’s the man and I hope to have him ready for the season as well.”
His ethic has made an impact all the way up to the ownership.
“Mardy is going to give you everything he has, there’s no question about it,” Yatim said. “He takes pride in what he does and has a tremendous amount of pride when it comes to representing the name on the back of his jersey. He likes to talk and backs that talk up with his production. He’s an experienced route runner, is able to recognize coverages pre and mid play, next level knowledge of how to run his routes, leverage, and how to get open, has consistent hands and has a knack for producing in critical situations, he’s fearless out there. Off the field, he is a personable guy who people gravitate toward, Worcester has seemed to embrace him.”