By Tim Gayle
MONTGOMERY – They use the term “super senior” to describe a player who has used all of his eligibility but is playing on the extra year the NCAA granted because of COVID.
It’s a very appropriate name for Shamarious Gilmore.
“Quion,” as he is known by the shortened version of his middle name, has had a hand in a lot of Georgia State’s football history. Consider this: the program has only been in existence for 12 years and Gilmore has been on the team for half of that tenure.
“It’s unbelievable to have Quion Gilmore back for his sixth year,” Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott said. “Actually, his first game was against Ball State when he was a redshirt freshman. He’s a great leader for us, he’s a five-time all-conference young man and that’s incredible. One of the things, when these guys come back for that additional year, it tells you that you’ve created a culture that they enjoy being around here. I enjoy him as much as I hope he enjoys us because he’s a great young man and we’re thrilled that he’s going out one last time in a bowl game.”
The journey ends where it started. Gilmore will line up as the starting left guard against Ball State in the TaxAct Camellia Bowl on Christmas Day at Cramton Bowl.
For Gilmore, a key factor in the 2021 season was made at the end of last year. The NCAA would grant him an extra year of eligibility, but did he want it?
“It was a tough decision,” he admitted after Wednesday’s bowl practice at Huntingdon College. “Just a lot of talking to my family, just talking to God, praying a lot. I still had a lot of unfinished business. I had to sit down and talk with Coach Elliott because I knew there were some things that we could do for the first time. And that was a big influence on my decision.”
Georgia State, which had won just 11 games in its first five seasons of existence, had moved to the former Turner Field in 2017, won a program-best seven wins in 2017 and 2019 and earned a bowl victory in 2017. Gilmore had already seen a lot of history.
But when he decided to return in 2021 for his sixth season, he was rewriting history. On Saturday, he will play in his school-record 60th game. Fifty-nine of those games will be as a starter after his streak was snapped at 51 earlier this season because of injury against Appalachian State. His team set a program record with six Sun Belt Conference victories this season.
He was an honorable mention all-Sun Belt selection in 2017 and 2018, a third-team selection in 2019 and a first team selection the last two years, joining Coastal Carolina offensive lineman Trey Carter as the only five-time selections to the conference team in Sun Belt history.
On Saturday, he will become the first Panther to start in four bowl games.
“The accolades came and I appreciate them, but it’s just a testament to not just my work but my teammates’ work and my coaches’ work because I wouldn’t be here without them,” Gilmore said.
The 6-foot-3, 295-pound guard has a chance to play professional football and that was certainly on his mind during the offseason, but he points out this season had the chance to be a special one.
“I’ve always wanted to play at the next level,” he said, “so (a goal was) to come back and be the best and train to be the best.
You can always get better mentally and physically. The big thing is, to play again with my brothers.”
A 1-4 start threatened to wreck his season. Lopsided losses to Army, North Carolina and Appalachian State, along with an agonizingly close loss at Auburn, could have derailed some teams, especially those from the early days of the program’s history. Instead, Georgia State quietly went to work on winning six of the final seven games.
“My first season, we had a winning season and went to a bowl game, then we had a 2-10 season,” Gilmore recalled. “We came together when we were 1-4 and said, ‘OK, this ship can go two ways. We can go good and turn it around — because nobody likes losing — or we can let it all fall away.’
“With the team we had this season, there really wasn’t a lot of talking. We felt the atmosphere and we felt our backs were against the wall and we responded the right way. We had a positive attitude, came out to practice every day and it paid off. We’re here.”
On Saturday, Georgia State will set a program record with its third consecutive bowl appearance and could set another record with a win over Ball State.
“Setting new standards is what we’re trying to produce,” Gilmore said. “We’ve only been here 12 years. Back-to-back bowl wins would be huge, a record-setting eighth win would be huge. That’s the number one thing on everybody’s mind — to go out there and perform and win.”