100 Moments: Honoring the Defensive Wizard
Friday, November 9, 2012
100 Moments: Honoring the Defensive Wizard

The 100 Moments of TSU Athletics presented by Taco Bell® series continues by looking back at one of the most iconic college football coaches of all-time.

Joe Gilliam, Sr.
is one of the most respected coaches in the history of the game. He began his intercollegiate football career at Indiana University, where he played on the Hoosiers' national championship football team.

He then went into the armed services, and upon his discharge, enrolled at West Virginia State College, where he played both basketball and football. At West Virginia State College, he received All-American honors as a quarterback and earned a place in the Yellow Jackets' Sports Hall of Fame. Coach Gilliam began his 35-year coaching career on the high school level in Kentucky, where he earned the Kentucky High School Football Association's Coach of the Year title.

He went on to coach on the collegiate level at Jackson State College in Mississippi, helping lead the Tigers to two consecutive Black National Championship titles.

From 1963-1981, Gilliam was the assistant head football coach and defensive coordinator for Tennessee State University. During this period, Tennessee State University had nine Black National Championships, and four undefeated teams. As an assistant coach under John A. Merritt, Gilliam helped create one of the best defenses in the country, including NFL Hall of Famer Richard Dent and former Dallas Cowboy Ed 'Too Tall' Jones.

In 1989, he took the helm as head coach for four seasons and was selected as Coach of the Year in the Ohio Valley Conference in 1990.

Over 80 TSU student-athletes reached the NFL during Gilliam's tutelage.

Not only was Coach Gilliam a success on the field, approximately 74 percent of his student-athletes graduated from Tennessee State. The men have professions in the business, education and in the medical field to just name a few.

His illustrious career record of 254-93-15 included coaching five undefeated teams and five other teams that lost only one game. In the process, he coached 10 teams to national championships, and helped guide 144 players into professional football careers with the National Football League

During the 25 years that Gilliam was at Tennessee State, the Tigers had a 164-31-6 record.

He is father of former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Joe Gilliam, and the grandfather of R&B singer Joi.

Gilliam was inducted into the TSU Sports Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Tennessee Sports Hall Of Fame in 2007.

The 100 Moments of TSU Athletics presented by Taco Bell® highlights some of the greatest moments in honor of Tennessee State's centennial celebration. A new moment will be released each weekday for a total of 100. These moments were chosen by the TSU 100 Moments committee, which consists of alums from various departments. TSU has so many great moments, not all can be represented in these 100.

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