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55 DAYS TO 2023 KICKOFF: Hayden Gillum

In which BracketCat counts down the 55th day until the 2023 kickoff with a profile of Kansas State offensive lineman Hayden Gillum.

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#55 Hayden Gillum
Everyone’s favorite starting center and unofficial Culver’s spokesperson, Hayden Gillum (55), returns for one last swan song season at K-State.
Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NOTE: Kansas State has elected to advance players’ classification even though the 2020 season did not affect eligibility. Those who wish to take advantage of this extra year will be listed as a (“super”) senior again after their original eligibility would have been exhausted.

#55 Hayden Gillum

Redshirt Super Senior | 6-3 | 294 lbs. | Plainville, Kansas
Hayden Gillum
Hayden Gillum
Courtesy Kansas State Athletics
  • Position: Offensive Line
  • Previous College: None
  • Projection: Starter
  • Status: On Scholarship

Hayden Tyler “Gilly” Gillum (b. Oct. 20, 1999) is a former walk-on offensive lineman from Plainville who graduated in December 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in professional strategic selling and earned his master’s degree in business administration in May 2023.

Gillum redshirted in 2018 and saw action in one game in 2019, playing in a reserve role against Bowling Green. He saw action in six games in 2020 as a reserve offensive lineman and on field goal protection, and also picked up second-team Academic All-Big 12 honors.

Gillum then played in all 13 games in 2021, primarily on field goal protection. He also saw time as a reserve offensive lineman against Kansas, West Virginia and LSU in the bowl game.

After being placed on scholarship following the 2021 Texas Bowl, Gillum took control of the vacant starting position in spring camp and didn’t look back, starting all 14 games at center — the first starts of his career — and picking up All-Big 12 Honorable Mention accolades.

He was the middle of an offensive unit that averaged 208.3 rushing yards per game to rank 15th in the nation, the Wildcats’ best mark since 2016 (231.8) and rank since 2003 (No. 9).

Gillum also helped K-State to rank third in school history with 5.12 rushing yards per carry, fourth with 2,916 rushing yards and 10th with 32 rushing touchdowns. K-State also ranked second in school history with 5,863 total offensive yards and ninth with 6.12 yards per play.

More important, he only surrendered one sack in 2022, which came at Iowa State (probably the best defense K-State faced all season), according to Pro Football Focus.

A four-year letter-winner at Plainville High under coach Grant Stephenson, Gillum earned first-team all-state honors as a junior and senior from The Topeka Capital-Journal, while he was a first-team honoree by The Wichita Eagle as a senior and an honorable mention pick as a junior after helping the Cardinals to earn an 11-2 record and become the state runner-up.

Gillum led his team in tackles all four years and was the second all-time leading tackler in the history of the league with 354 total tackles, including 206 solo stops, 14 sacks and five fumble recoveries. He also blocked four field goals and picked off three passes.

Gillum lettered four years in basketball in high school, and one year in track and field. His brother, Hadley, finished up his basketball career at Fort Hays State University in 2017-18.

Here’s what his position coach, Conor Riley, had to say about his earning a scholarship:

We felt his work ethic and leadership and contributions on this football team stretched long before he could ever make a first start. I’ll never forget Oklahoma in 2020, we were coming off a challenging loss (a 35-31 season-opening loss to Arkansas State), and Hayden was one who continually encouraged our guys to keep chopping wood and from a sideline standpoint he helped spark us to our comeback through his encouragement. You look at the contributions and body of work he put together and the conversations he and I had leading up to it, and we felt he was deserving of a scholarship. Hayden is kind of that textbook story of a young man who’s come in and earned it. I’m just very pleased for him and his family. I know it meant a lot to him.

And head coach Chris Klieman weighed in on his newlywed center who loves Culver’s, too:

He’s the guy who has the most fun in practice and who takes ownership. He’s the guy who’s a great communicator and he’s playing at a really, really high level. Gilly has had a great senior season. I hope our young offensive linemen look at Gilly and say, “It hasn’t been easy for him, but look what he’s done and look where he is now.”

And here’s offensive coordinator Collin Klein’s opinion of Gillum’s leadership:

Those were big shoes to fill not just from a playing standpoint but from a leadership and continuity standpoint. He’s definitely grown into that as the year has gone on and he’s done a fantastic job.

Last but certainly not least, can’t omit newest Dallas Cowboys running back Deuce Vaughn:

He’s the sparkplug of our offense. Anytime we’re in the huddle, he’s hyping us up getting ready to go. He’s the guy. He’s always that beacon of light for us. My appreciation for him in undeniable. I can’t put into words how thankful I am for him and how he plays for this team. He puts his heart out there. To run behind him, it’s really reassuring.

High praise indeed. Read more about it here as we prepare to view Gillum’s final swan song.

I’ll leave you with his thoughts on the offensive line’s mission to “Bring Back the Beef”:

Being the best offensive line is a statement that we’re wanting to make. We know we can be the best (in the Big 12) and we can be one of the best offensive lines in the country, but with that comes work. We know the goals we have as a unit, and we know it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get there. It’s not going to happen overnight. We left a lot out there (in 2022). When it comes down to it, whether it’s a play or a game, you clean out those few plays here and there, and you have a two-game difference on the season (won-loss record). We didn’t finish how we wanted to. We feel like we left a ton out there in (the Sugar Bowl). We know there’s more and that’s what’s exciting. We just got started last year.