Remembering John Gilliam

John Gilliam of the 1967 New Orleans Saints
Saints Return Man John Gilliam

John Gilliam was a 2nd round draft pick in 1967 from South Carolina State that would spend time with 6 different NFL teams during his 11-year NFL career. Gilliam spent his first 2 years with the Saints before being traded to St. Louis in 1969 were he starred with Cardinal quarterback legend Jim Hart and put up some very good numbers during his stay there. Undoubtedly, his best years came with the Minnesota Vikings and a quarterback by the name of Fran Tarkington. As a Viking he went to 4 consecutive Pro Bowls from 1972 to 1975 and played in Super Bowls VIII and IX. He actually led the league in the yards-per-catch in 1972 with a not-to-shabby 22.0 average. His 18.5 lifetime YPC still ranks #20 among the All-Time NFL Yards per Reception Career Leaders. In 1976 he caught on with the Falcons for a season. He started the 1977 season with Chicago but left the Bears after week 2 to rejoined his former team and finish out his final season in football as a New Orleans Saint.

While his time with New Orleans overall was brief and somewhat uneventful, he will be forever remembered for scoring the first-ever touchdown in New Orleans Saints history. It came on the opening kickoff of the 1967 regular season in Tulane Stadium against the Los Angeles Rams. Gilliam went 94 yards to pay dirt. Unfortunately, it was the only touchdown the Saints would score that day as the Rams rolled to a 27-13 victory. Ironically, despite such a dramatic prelude to franchise’s beginning, it would be 20 years before the Saints would enjoy a winning season. On a side note, Walt “Flea” Roberts would return the opening kickoff against Philadelphia 7 weeks later in the Saint’s first ever win.

John Gilliam’s Career Statistics with the New Orleans Saints

Receiving Statistics

Catches Yards Average Longest TDs
1967 22 264 12.0 35 1
1968 24 284 11.8 39 0
1977 11 133 12.1 23 1
Totals 57 681 11.9 39 2

 

Rushing Statistics

Catches Yards Average Longest TDs
1967 7 41 5.9 19 0
1968 2 36 18.0 29 0
1977 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 9 77 8.6 29 0

 

Kick Return Statistics

Returns Yards Average Longest TDs
1967 16 481 30.1 94t 1
1968 15 328 21.9 48 0
1977 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 31 809 26.1 94t 1

 

 

Punt Return Statistics

Returns Yards Average Longest TDs
1967 7 13 1.9 8 0
1968 15 60 4.0 21 0
1977 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 22 73 3.3 21 0

 

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