Kingman man's NFL dream one step closer to reality: Gilleo signs with Jets
KINGMAN - If you were up to no good, you probably wouldn't want to run into 6-foot, 7-inch, 310-pound Trey Gilleo in a dark alley.
So the bad people of the world are probably hoping Gilleo, who holds a degree in criminal justice from Northern Arizona University, keeps his day job as an offensive lineman for the New York Jets.
Gilleo, a Kingman High graduate, signed with the Jets as an undrafted free agent moments after last week's NFL draft concluded. He heads to New York on Thursday.
"It's been a goal of mine for a long time," Gilleo said. "It hasn't really sunk in yet, the actual reality that I'm a professional football player. I work for the NFL now. It's all surreal."
Gilleo started 33 games over his final three seasons with the Lumberjacks and was selected to the Casino del Sol College All-Star Game in January, where he gained the attention of several pro scouts.
"Even as a little kid I remember wearing all the NFL jerseys and acting like I was a player," Gilleo said. "I was excited that I was able to play college football from Kingman and once I got to NAU, teams started showing me some interest. I started realizing that this goal was actually legitimate and actually reachable. Now that it is starting to happen, I feel kind of in a dream state.
"Hopefully it will sink in and I'll be able to get to work."
Last season, Gilleo was named the John C. Yost Memorial recipient as an offensive lineman and was selected to the second team All Big Sky Conference team. Playing right tackle, Gilleo helped lead an offensive line that blocked for Walter Payton Award finalist Zach Bauman, and the offensive unit rushed for 173 yards per game.
NAU finished the season 8-3 and 6-2 in the Big Sky Conference.
Gilleo did not attended the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in February, but he impressed scouts at the All Star game in Tucson and again during NAU's Pro Day in March. He watched the NFL draft from his home in Kingman.
"Our expectations were that I would be an undrafted free agent," Gilleo said. "A lot of teams showed some interest, and late in the rounds I got some calls saying I might get drafted. It just worked out that I was an undrafted free agent."
Gilleo is under contract to play for the Jets this fall, but that doesn't mean he will be playing on Sundays. He first has to make the 53-man roster. If he doesn't do that, there's a chance he will be put on the practice squad and possibly called up during the season.
Just being an undrafted free agent and participating in training camp and preseason games is an opportunity and a foot in the door into the NFL, he said, as he's not just being evaluated by the team that signed him - other teams are evaluating him as well.
"You are basically in a job interview," Gilleo said. "You want to be professional and humble because at any minute, one injury, one play, it could be over with. I'm going to cherish it and make the most of it."
Gilleo is one of three offensive linemen the Jets signed as undrafted free agents and joins the three other O-linemen the team drafted.
His New York Jets experience will start with rookie minicamp.
There, he will learn the offense and get acclimated with the NFL. He assumes that the play will be bigger, faster and more complicated.
"You need to work hard, and obviously football is one of the sports where it can be tiring, it could be painful at times," said Gilleo, a 2008 KHS graduate. "The reason why I'm with the New York Jets today is because of the hard work that I put in high school and the five years at NAU. You need to work hard."
Gilleo is optimistic about the opportunity presented to him, but is also realistic about his career in the NFL. And if protecting quarterback Mark Sanchez's blind side or opening holes for running back Shonn Greene isn't in his future, then his criminal justice degree and his ability to protect and serve as a law enforcement officer will be a nice fallback plan.
"I've been looking at that and keeping my windows and opportunities open, but it just so happened that NFL window was open so I'm going to take that one," Gilleo said. "Playing in the NFL is not a career. It's a job. It's not going to last forever. I think the average NFL career is only three to five years.
"I understand that and after football, there is a life after that and I need to be able to support myself and my family. I need to be able to find an occupation that will be able to last me for 10, 20 years instead of the life in the NFL."
In the meantime, Gilleo is going to make the most of an opportunity few people in the world get.
"I'm just hoping that I get a shot and get an opportunity to show what I have," Gilleo said. "I'm going to put everything on the table to make sure I'm giving 100 percent. I'm just going to enjoy this ride and see where it takes me.
"I still have my degree from NAU and I'm still incredibly proud of the education goal that I reached. I graduated college and I'm proud of the way my playing career is going so far.
"If I can prolong it a little longer, then great. If not, then I'm at peace with it."
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