Knoxville, Tenn.--(UT Sports) Every sport has its risk of injury. Unfortunately for Team 118, Jacob Gilliam has seen his senior season ended following just one game after suffering a torn ACL.
Gilliam began his career as a walk-on. Over five years, Gilliam worked relentlessly to prove to coaches his skills as on the offensive line. After all of the work and the May prior to this season, he fulfilled a career dream. He earned not only a scholarship, but a starting role at left tackle.
"Here is a young man who walked on and earned a scholarship," head coach Butch Jones said. "He earned it. It is very unfortunate, but that is football. ... I love him and I love his family. I love everything that they stand for."
Both senior Marlin Lane and redshirt junior Marcus Jackson along with Jones have seen the journey for Gilliam who went from a scout teammer to a starting role on the team.
"He is disappointed," Jones said. "He has put in a lot of hard work, effort and commitment into it. It will serve him year down the road with handling adversity. He will be better from it. Obviously you would expect him to be down after putting so much work into it."
"I've been with him for four years," Jackson added. "It's tough to see that. He did come in here as a walk-on and worked his way up. I'm real proud of him, but everything in life happens for a reason and he'll be a stronger person because of it."
When losing Gilliam on an already young offensive line, Lane sees one important factor that the team will lose.
"He's always smiling and knows his stuff," said Lane. "He fought through adversity since I've been here my freshman year.
"Jacob is a great guy. I love Jacob. I feel sorry for him losing his career, but we have people that practice hard. I'm very confident in whoever takes his spot."
Despite the difficulty of the situation, the team wants Gilliam to remain an influential part on the team.
"Unfortunately things like that happen in football," senior and fellow lineman Mack Crowder said. "He's going to be there with us every step of the way coaching these guys up and just being there to support us because he's still a part of the offensive line."