John Gilliam
No. 42, 44, 82, 41
Position:Wide receiver
Personal information
Born: (1945-08-07) August 7, 1945 (age 77)
Greenwood, South Carolina, U.S.
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:195 lb (88 kg)
Career information
High school:Greenwood (SC) Brewer
College:South Carolina State
NFL Draft:1967 / Round: 2 / Pick: 52
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Receiving yards:7,056
Player stats at · PFR

John Rally Gilliam (born August 7, 1945) is a former American football wide receiver. He has owned a number of businesses, and for two years he worked for a radio station in Atlanta. He has made his home in Atlanta since 1968. His wife Fannie is an attorney, and they have four children.[1][2]

Life and career

Gilliam attended Brewer High School in Greenwood, South Carolina, then played college football at South Carolina State University,[3] from which he graduated with a degree in biology. While in college he also lettered in track and was clocked in the 100 yard dash in 9.5 seconds, four tenths of a second off the world record at the time.[4] He was drafted in the second round by the expansion New Orleans Saints. He played his first two seasons in New Orleans, and then had stints with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1969 to 1971, the Minnesota Vikings from 1972 to 1975, the Atlanta Falcons in 1976, and brief stints with the Chicago Bears and back in New Orleans for 1977. Gilliam played in 2 Super Bowls with the Vikings, Super Bowl VIII and Super Bowl IX. He was elected to the Pro Bowl all four years while he was with Minnesota.[1]

In 1972, Gilliam led the NFL in yards per catch (22) and finished 2nd in receiving yards (1,035) and receiving yards per game (73.9). In 1973, he again finished 2nd in receiving yards (907) and receiving yards per game (64.8) and was named 1st Team All-Pro by the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) and 2nd Team All-Pro by the Associated Press (AP) and the Pro Football Writers Association (PFWA). He was also named 1st Team All-NFC by The Sporting News and UPI in 1973.

He is famous for returning the opening kickoff 94 yards in the Saints' inaugural game in 1967 against the Los Angeles Rams for their first touchdown in franchise history. In Super Bowl VIII, Gilliam returned the second half kickoff 65 yards to the Miami 34, but a clipping penalty wiped out almost all the yardage. One play in Super Bowl IX also resulted in Gilliam colliding with then-NFL Films cameraman (later president) Steve Sabol.

Gilliam played with the Chicago Winds of the WFL in 1975, catching 20 passes for 390 yards, 19.5 average and 2 touchdowns. The Winds folded after 5 games and Gilliam returned to the Vikings in time for the 1975 season. He signed with the Falcons as a free agent before the 1976 season.[5] The Falcons waived him after one season and he signed with the Bears for the 1977 season.[6] The Bears waived him after 2 games and he signed with the Saints for the remainder of the 1977 season.[7]


  1. ^ John DeShazier, "Where are they now? John Gilliam, New Orleans Saints receiver-returner" Archived 2017-08-10 at the Wayback Machine,, March 17, 2014.
  2. ^ Gene Sapakoff, "Very first Saints’ TD was made by S.C. State grad John Gilliam", The Post and Courier reprinted in The Times and Democrat, February 4, 2010.
  3. ^ " SC State Alumnus featured in AT&T 20th Anniversary Edition Calendar", South Carolina State University, October 9, 2008.
  4. ^ Great Moments in Pro Football, by Bill Gutman
  5. ^ "John Gilliam signs with Falcons". Daily News Leader. May 6, 1976. p. 14. Retrieved 2022-10-18 – via
  6. ^ "Heisman winners axed in final NFL cutdown". Chillicothe Gazette. September 15, 1977. p. 17. Retrieved 2022-10-18 – via
  7. ^ "John Gilliam returns to New Orleans Saints". Sun Herald. October 7, 1977. p. 19. Retrieved 2022-10-18 – via