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2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview: James Gillespie, WR, Widener University

James Gillespie is a great athlete at Widener University who has been a star on the football field and basketball court. Gillespie was named MAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2019 after having 75 receptions, 1326 yards, 17 TDs. He recently sat down with Draft Diamonds writer Jimmy Williams.
  • Name: James Gillespie
  • Height: 6’2”
  • Weight: 205 lbs
  • Position: WR
  • College: Widener University
  • Twitter: @11_jamesg

Tell us about your university/college. Did you participate in any other activities or campus organizations other than football?

Widener is a small Division III university just south of Philadelphia located in Chester, PA. What we lack in size, we make up for with a beautiful campus, state of the art facilities, experienced and skilled faculty and a student body that makes you feel at home. I have grown to love Widener and the people there throughout my 4 years and I am glad to call it home. Aside from football, I was a member of the 2019-2020 basketball team at Widener where we were MAC regular season champions. Although my basketball career was short lived only having played 1 season, I made great relationships and created bonds with my teammates and coaching staff that will last a lifetime.

What do your teammates say is your best quality?

I think it’s my ability to lead by example and the respect I have for every one of my teammates. I’m not the most vocal on the field, but I do my job with pride and try to bring others along the way with me and guide them to do the same. With that comes a great deal of respect and patience for others. I treat everyone on my team as I would want to be treated whether you are a senior that starts or a scout team freshman. Every member of the team has an essential role and I want my teammates to feel that. 

What kind of role do you see yourself in on the team? What scheme and/or position suits your skill set?

I definitely see myself as the leader of the team. Now entering my 5th season on the team, I am the only active member on the roster to be a part of the 2016 season and along the way I have seen the programs ups and downs and feel as if I can be a great influence on younger teammates just because of the experience I have.

Scheme wise, I think I am best suited on the outside at this level although I can move around all over the field. My size and speed allow me to be a deep ball guy as well as a 3rd down sure handed receiver who is able to catch the ball in traffic. 

Who is the best player you have ever played against in college?

My first 3 years I was able to compete against and learn from Jordan Powell, a DB for Widener  who now plays in the CFL, everyday at practice. The best player I have ever played against in a collegiate game would have to be Austin Tennessee of Stevenson University (2016). All-around athlete who could play every position on the field both ways. 

Which one of your teammates impresses you the most?

There are a number of teammates I could name because I am impressed with several of them but I would have to say the guy that impressed me the most is a young WR, Ty Holbert. As a transfer sophomore, he came in and made an immediate impact as a starter. What impressed me the most was his IQ for the game and his ability to learn on the fly while making the big play. He’s a great addition to the team that really makes our offense so dynamic.

Describe a time in your life when you were able to overcome a struggle.

More recently, I suffered a broken clavicle early my Junior year (2018). What I thought was going to be a breakout year for myself was halted by this setback. I underwent surgery a few days later and those were some of my darker days. Some suggested I hang up the cleats for good which really made me question if I would play again. With the help of my doctor and the awesome trainers at Widener, I was able to rehab and get back to 100%. Now, coming off of the best season of my career I am extremely proud to say I have overcome one of the most difficult times in my life and if I can do it, so can anyone who has ever dealt with an injury or situation like mine. 

If you didn’t play football, what other sport would you play?

Most likely basketball. I played all 4 years in high school and this year at Widener, despite not playing an organized game since high school. 

What is something that you are most proud of?
I would say I am most proud of the relationships I have made with my teammates, coaches, and others while at Widener. I am an easy going person and I think many people including my opponents get that. I understand the ball will stop bouncing one day but the memories and the friendships I’ve made along the way will last forever and I am happy to say that I made the last few years at Widener some of the best. It introduced me to people and expanded my network more than I would’ve imagined.

What would you say is your biggest achievement?

My biggest achievement thus far would have to be being named MAC Offensive Player of the Year and an All American for the 2019 season. I remember coming in as a freshman, I made an impact on the team immediately but never thought I’d get the accolades or recognition like this ever. I am extremely humbled and appreciative of everyone who has helped me achieve this along the way. 

Describe one of the most memorable plays of your collegiate career.

My most memorable play of my collegiate career came this past season in our season opener. We were playing a team I had never beat in my 4 years at Widener. We opened up the season with a night game at their place and while up 3 in the 4th quarter, we faced a 3rd and 18. Coach B called my number and I went up top to catch a fade down the sideline for 24 yards. I scored later that drive to extend the lead and did not realize how important that 3rd down catch was until after the game was over and we had finally won. Something I will remember for a long time. 

Do you have a favorite athlete or professional team? Is there a player that you model your game after?

Growing up in Philadelphia, I have always been a die hard fan of all Philly teams especially the Eagles. The past couple years I have been a fan of Adam Thielen and Michael Thomas. Both of those guys seem to just go out and do their job on the field and hold themselves to a high standard while having fun. I like to model my game after Thielen just because I think we have a similar stature and I’m also not the fastest but focusing on good clean routes can create separation against anyone. 

Who is your favorite music artist? What gets you pumped before a game?

You can ask any of my friends and they will tell you I am a timeless wonder. I like all genres of music from all eras. Tough to say what gets me pumped for a game because anything I listen to honestly calms me down and allows me to focus. Some of my favorite artists include Fleetwood Mac, the Lumineers and Queen as well as Post Malone and DaBaby so you can see I like really anything. My go to before a game is Mathew Wilder “Break My Stride”. Don’t really have an explanation for it. I just like it.

What is your favorite comfort food?

I’d have to say Maggie May’s Campus Pub boneless wings. Elite Sunday eats when I’m sitting on the couch watching Redzone. 

Do you have a favorite movie or actor?

Huge movie guy so tough to pick a favorite, but I would have to go with Wedding Crashers. Classic comedy that makes me laugh every time. Big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio but I would have to say my all time favorite actor is Tom Hanks. 

What do you do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies? Any secret talents?

I like spending my spare time with friends and family. I love the Office so I’ll spend some time on Netflix watching that. As for hobbies and talents I’ve always been pretty artistic. I enjoy drawing and painting. 

Who or what motivates you the most?

For ”who” motivates me the most, I’d have to say my family. They have been a constant throughout my life as a support system who are always there for me. As for “what” motivates me, I’d say proving people wrong. Over the course of my time with football many people have overlooked me and I had gotten used to just being in the background. I was never the guy in high school to be in the paper or get the awards. When I got to Widener I just decided to have fun with the couple years I had left with football. Along the way I started to make a name for myself here and received some recognition. I want to continue to prove to people who have passed up on me in the past and that drive keeps me going. 


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