Heard it From Hoard: Column 25
It might be the most famous embrace since Bill Clinton hugged a black beret-wearing Monica Lewinsky on a "rope line" in 1996.
When Mardy Gilyard crashed into the Nippert Stadium stands against USF on October 30th and barreled into 7-year-old Garrett Monroe, the UC wide receiver became a national hero for caring enough to remove his helmet, give the youngster a huge hug, and make sure that Garrett wasn't injured before returning to the field.
"I hit that him so hard that you could actually see his face paint on my jersey," Gilyard said. "I felt extremely bad and I would have felt even worse if he hadn't given me a high five after I hugged him."
The video of Gilyard's kind gesture has been viewed more than 280,000 times on YouTube.
I only wish there was watch footage of something I saw Gilyard do on the Bearcats recent trip to Hawaii.
Two days before the 67th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the entire UC football team went on a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial - ground zero for the start of World War II for the United States and the final resting place for many of the battleship's 1,177 crew members who lost their lives on December 7, 1941.
If you were touched by Gilyard's goodness when he hugged the kid, you would have been bowled over by the respect he showed an elderly man.
88-year-old Ed Borucki is one of roughly 30 living survivors of the Pearl Harbor attacks and was at the memorial that day to share his story. Gilyard not only listened intently - he told Borucki he was in awe of him, posed for a picture, and even asked for an autograph.
"It meant so much because I have family members that have gone to war," a beaming Gilyard told me after the encounter. "My father was in the Army, my stepfather was in the service, and for me to meet someone who fought in World War II was really humbling. I'm proud to be an American, so to be in the presence of Mr. Edward B. - I don't want to say his last name wrong - I was star-struck. His group actually shot down Japanese fighter planes. Knowing that he had first-hand experience with that was amazing. I never thought I'd get to meet someone like that."
Borucki was on the USS Helena that was docked in the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard on the morning of the attacks. When a warning sounded Borucki went to his battle station, an act that saved his life when a torpedo hit the ship killing 33 of his shipmates.
Due to the lack of communication at the time, Borucki was assumed dead and his obituary even appeared in the newspaper.
"They thought he was dead, but he swam across the water to safety," Gilyard said. "I shook his hand and kept telling him 'thank you' over and over again. He said, 'you don't have to thank me so many times son.' And I said, 'you just don't understand how much this means to me.' Stuff like that really touches me. I can't speak for the rest of my teammates, but for me personally, it really touched my heart."
Gilyard's remarkable road to stardom at Cincinnati is well-known. Two years ago he had his scholarship revoked after flunking out. In order to return to the team, Mardy worked four jobs to pay off roughly $10,000 in tuition debt, and often slept in his car.
Perhaps that explains why he seems to savor every aspect of being a Bearcat.
"This is the most fun I've ever had in my life," Gilyard said. "If I could tell other college football players anything I'd tell them 'don't leave school early. Enjoy your experiences because you won't have anything like this after college.' This is a once-in-lifetime shot and I'm enjoying it. I thank God every day for how he blesses us. For the team to be so successful - number one in school history in wins and headed to a great bowl. I mean, we've been blessed."
One day after meeting NAVY Yeoman 2nd Class Edward Borucki, Gilyard scored the game-winning touchdown in the Bearcats thrilling comeback win over Hawaii, catching a pass from Dustin Grutza near the sideline before breaking a tackle and racing 69 yards to the end zone with 4:42 to go.
It was another highlight that's sure to get a bunch of views on YouTube.
But it wasn't the most impressive thing Mardy did in Hawaii.
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Enjoy this week's photo of the handsome lad as he prepares to hit daddy with a snowball.
(This story originally appeared in the December 20th edition of Bearcat Sports Digest)