Plainview's Jeston Gilliam has evolved into playmaker thanks to strong work ethic

Beau Bearden
The Daily Ardmoreite
Plainview senior Jeston Gilliam has morphed into an all-around playmaker for the Indians since starting his career as a lineman. Gilliam has reached that point by sticking to the motto, "Put your head down and go to work."

It’s been quite the journey for Jeston Gilliam.

He started his Plainview High School football career as an offensive lineman and has since morphed into an all-around playmaker for the Indians.

However, he’ll be the first to tell you that it required a lot of dedication.

“Coming to this point, there was a lot of work that had to be put in,” Gilliam said. “As a freshman, trying to get that spot and achieving it, I knew I had to keep it up and compete with those guys. I had a lot of good teammates on that team who have made themselves now as collegiate players. I had to work a lot then, and it’s just built on itself since then. We go out there and work and just try to compete every day and get better.”

And that mentality is fundamental for Plainview this season. Gilliam said the Indians of the past featured more athletic ability and hyping everybody up, but it’s different in 2021.

“This group is more, ‘Put your head down and go to work,’” he said. “That’s what we wanted to do. We talked about that during the preseason. We put it out there from the get-go. ‘Let’s just put our heads down and let’s go to work.’”

Gilliam is the perfect example of that, as his evolution over the past few years didn’t happen by spending time in the usual spots.

“Not everything is in the weight room or on the field,” Gilliam said. “Sometimes you have to go home and work at things. You have to find different things to do — footwork drills and go outside and play catch. There’s a lot of stuff that goes into it, other than just in the weight room or on the field.”

That commitment has paid off, too, as it’s helped Gilliam transform into a different type of athlete. Even Plainview head coach Joe Price admitted Gilliam’s body has changed since middle school and freshman year.

“Jeston has just kind of got taller and slimmed up,” Price said. “Wrestling has been something that probably really helped him with that, as well. He just kind of evolved differently than what you think a guy is normally going to.”

And Gilliam's evolution played a factor in the coaching staff moving him to a new role. But Price did mention that he would still be a good offensive and defensive linemen if it never happened.

However, everyone is happy it did.

“It’s been great for him, and great for us because he’s done a great job with it,” Price said.

Jeston Gilliam has already tallied 26 tackles in two games for the Indians during the 2021 season.

Gilliam’s situation should also pay dividends for younger Indians, as they know it’s possible to switch positions if certain things change in your favor.

“There are a lot of upcoming kids who are the same way,” Gilliam said. “They don’t really know where they’re going to play yet because we have a pretty good first and second team. There are a lot of freshmen that look up to me. I try to help a lot of people out and so do most of my teammates in (the locker room). It helps a lot. We’re just keeping everyone in it, being good teammates.”

However, as is the case on any team, Plainview has its fair share of friendly rivalries.

That is especially the case for Gilliam and Caden Pickens. The duo is next to each other on defense and they’ve put up impressive numbers with a combined 58 tackles in two games.

“There’s quite a bit of competition on defense, especially between me and (Caden),” Gilliam said. “Now we both moved back to linebacker, so there’s competition there. And of course, everyone wants to make the most tackles and be there in that race. There’s a lot of competition between everybody and every group, so that keeps us going, as well.”

The Indians hope that’s the case Friday night as they welcome Cache to town for the final non-district contest for both squads. Planview enters the matchup following a 21-13 loss to Tuttle, while the Bulldogs are coming off a 49-0 win over Altus.

“Cache is as big or bigger than Tuttle,” Price said. “Maybe not as skilled at quarterback and running back as Tuttle was, but they’re a good football team. They’ve played some good competition already. It’s just like the other two that we’ve played. We’re going to have to be ready to roll.

“We still have a lot of confidence,” Price continued. “We feel good about how we’ve played and we’re hungry to go win a football game. That’s the best thing that we have right now, because the kids aren’t satisfied with just playing well. They want to go win. That’s the goal this week.”