FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Running back Mike Gillislee was one of the bright spots in the New England Patriots' season-opening 42-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, scoring three rushing touchdowns to establish a career high in a single game.
Patriots fans are still getting to know the 5-foot-11, 219-pound Gillislee, who signed with the club as a restricted free agent on April 24. A native of DeLand, Florida, he attended the University of Florida and has now played for three of the four teams in the AFC East.
With the Patriots, he is the top candidate to replace LeGarrette Blount's production as the team's short-yardage power rusher, and one week into the season he's already made fantasy football owners happy.
So who is the 26-year-old Gillislee?
Prior to the season opener, we talked about his "football journey" as an introduction to Patriots fans.
When he first started playing football: “In the seventh grade, when I was 13. I was fast, always did Junior Olympics and whatever it was to do. Playing street football. My cousin came to me one day and said, ‘You should try it.’ I started off playing fullback, just outran everybody, and that’s how I started playing running back. I’ve been there ever since.”
Favorite teams growing up: “I grew up a Hurricanes fan, and pretty much all the Florida teams. But when I got a chance to go to college, Florida was winning a lot and I kind of jumped on that bandwagon. They gave me an offer and I committed.”
Favorite player growing up: “Ricky Williams. Just what he brought to the table, his mentality, running hard.”
Role models in his life: “I’d say my cousin, Louis Murphy, he’s with the 49ers now. I always looked up to him. He was a Florida Gator as well. I looked up to him and his passion for the game, how he stayed humble, and just kept working hard every day.”
Top memories of DeLand High School: “[Smiling] We went 0-10 one year and I just learned a lot about staying together and fighting to the end. Even though we went 0-10, we never gave up each and every game.”
Why he chose to attend Florida: “Miami never gave me an offer at first, and when they did, it was as an athlete. I was 170 [pounds] then, and I was afraid they might try to make me a defensive player. That was the rumor going around when they gave me the offer. At Florida, when I went on my visit and Urban Meyer gave me an offer right then, I took it.”
Top football memory at Florida: “Getting Tim Tebow's last handoff -- in the Swamp and the bowl game. Almost scored.”
Selected in fifth round of 2013 draft by Miami: “It was great to stay in Florida. When I got there, I was with Jelani Jenkins and Mike Pouncey, so it was nice to be with some other Gators.”
Playing three games as a rookie, spending his second year on IR, and getting released in 2015: “I learned a lot, especially feeling what I felt when I got released. That really opened my eyes. You never know when it’s your last opportunity. So whenever you get an opportunity, you have to take advantage.”
Signed to Cardinals practice squad for one month in 2015: “A tight end got hurt, I was new, and they released me to make room [for a tight end]. Then on my way going home, Buffalo called. They signed me the day of my birthday, Nov. 1, to their practice squad. I was on their practice squad for two weeks before being brought up.”
What he learned from his time in Buffalo (2015-2016): “A lot. It was pretty much my first time out of Florida or in a cold atmosphere. You’re just trying to make the most of your opportunity.”
Signing with the Patriots as a restricted free agent in April: “It’s always great to come to a winning organization. The day I signed my offer sheet, I just knew I was going to get another opportunity to play football, so that was a great feeling.”
What he loves about football: “Scoring touchdowns, of course. And bonding with my teammates.”