Second-year guard Garrett Gilkey is preparing to be a starter

Garrett Gilkey

Garrett Gilkey

Garrett Gilkey

The logo on his shirt is that of a Cleveland Browns dog with a barbell in it’s bared teeth trying to chew through it. Underneath are the words Cleveland Browns Strength.

This image stands in sharp contrast to the smiling man wearing it. Garrett Gilkey is upbeat, polite and doesn’t seem to have a mean bone in his body. He is in a fight, however. A fight for a starting spot on the Browns offensive line.

During the first four days of training camp, the first unit offensive line has been Joe Thomas (drafted 3rd overall), Alex Mack (21st overall), Mitchell Schwartz (37th overall), rookie Joel Bitonio (35th overall) and Gilkey who was selected in the seventh round, 227th overall.

With guard John Greco on the non-football injury list, and Jason Pinkston not participating in practice (for reasons the club and player aren’t willing to discuss), Gilkey has stepped into the starting right guard spot. He may be viewed as the longshot to keep the spot, but don’t tell that to Garrett, who has every intention of holding onto the job.

“With my mentality, I’m going in there thinking I am the starter,” Gilkey told WFNY. “A lot of people assume that I’m falling into it, the reality is I have the confidence, I have the mentality that I’m going in there and I’m going to be the starter. Now it’s just a matter of following through with that.

“The way I see it,” Gilkey continued, “It’s my job to lose. I’m going to be relentless and unwilling to give that up.”

Gilkey is no stranger to being thrown in the fire on the offensive line. With injuries suffered by Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao last season, Garrett found himself thrown into the starting mix in the second preseason game against Detroit’s excellent defensive line. The seventh-round rookie played in six games in 2013, starting the finale against the Steelers. It was more action than many offensive linemen drafted well ahead of him saw in 2013. Probably more than the Division II Chadron State alumnus expected to see.

gilkey quoteNow in his second training camp, the fact that he came from a small school no longer matters. His draft position no longer matters. Can he do the job or not?

Perhaps nobody on the offensive line welcomed the change in blocking schemes more than Gilkey. Kyle Shanahan brought with him a zone blocking scheme much closer to what Gilkey ran in college than the system Norv Turner used last season.

“It’s something I’m very comfortable with, and I’ve been very successful with,” Gilkey said with a smile. “That’s probably my biggest strength is moving laterally and those techniques. It hasn’t been a tough transition for me.”

If the Browns are going to be successful on offense this season, the offensive line will have to be a big reason why. The running back depth chart has been drastically improved. The team spent a high draft pick on rookie Joel Bitonio to help solidify the line. Alex Mack was brought back at high cost. Gilkey could be the last piece to the puzzle.

Thomas, Mack and Schwartz all have never missed a snap in their careers. Thomas and Mack are Pro-Bowlers. You couldn’t ask for much more in role models at your position.

“What I’ve learned most from those guys is their demeanor. How focused they are. They set themselves aside differently than your average NFL player. They are very consistent and very focused and very task oriented.”

It is that kind of singular focus that Gilkey is working on. It is why he thinks of himself as a starter already, to prepare himself for the opportunities that are in front of him.

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I couldn’t speak to Garrett without asking him about his use of social media. He is a great follow on twitter (@gagilk73) and Instagram (gagilk65). Unlike the majority of the Browns offensive linemen, Gilkey often interacts with fans through his social media outlets. “A lot of guys don’t like to interact, even guys that are active on social media,” said Gilkey. “For me, my outlets on social media are always going to be associated with humor. I try to let my sarcasm and my sense of humor filter out on my twitter feed and my instagram and facebook accounts. I enjoy it. I enjoy the witty and humorous tweets that come at me. I like to interact with the fans. For me it’s fun.”

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Never hurts to be prepared but I’m hoping he’s the Browns sixth man as far as the OL goes.

  • mgbode

    Garrett Gilkey is upbeat, polite and doesn’t seem to have a mean bone in his body.

    In general, words you do not want to describe your OL. I will take MMA trained fighters for $100, Alex.

    That said, we are going to need Gilkey this season whether or not he beats out Greco for the LG spot, so I am glad he is getting his repetitions in.

  • zoiperry

    I just got paid $7500 working off my computer this month. And if you think that’s cool, my friend has twin toddlers and made over $8k her first month. It feels so good making so much money when other people have to work for so much less. This is what I do,

    ……➜➜➜➜➜➜➜ PAYRAP.COM

  • Garry_Owen

    I’ve been pulling (no pun intended) for this guy since he was drafted. Hope he can do it.

    (By the way, Rick, this is a great piece. I wish there were more of these stories in the media. Seems like this is the kind of thing that you used to be able to find in print before the need for e-fanfare. No speculation on who’s going to beat whom and why they either do or do not deserve it, or the “controversial” things someone said (or didn’t say). Just a solid story about a player fighting for a spot. Well done.)

  • Garry_Owen

    I have a guess how you made that much money on the internet, but I’m at a loss for how your friend and her twin toddlers did. Seems like a call to the FBI might be in order.

  • mgbode

    Nested ()? Say it ain’t so, GO. Say it ain’t so.

  • Garry_Owen

    Oh, it’s so (and I’m not even going to change it (because I don’t care to)). Deal with it (and the sentence-ending preposition (or scram)).

  • woofersus

    He looks cool and tough, and for whatever reason I can’t help but root for guys who look like how a graphic novel might portray a really awesome football player. John Greco needs to change it up a little if he wants to win me back.

  • mgbode
  • Pat Leonard

    Oops, I’m embarrassed for you. Sorry.

  • Pat Leonard

    I remember thinking that Gilkey did a decent job in the preseason last year and I couldn’t believe he was being stashed on the bench in favor of Oniel Cousins. I can’t remember his start in the regular season against the Steelers, but I’m willing to bet it wasn’t on the level of Oniel Cousins.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    WFNY needs protection!

  • Sam Gold

    I’ve liked this guy since he arrived as well. While he seems like a nice guy off the field he always seems to play with a nasty streak. Hope he shines.

  • BenRM

    I like him better coming off the bench. He should be a team player. Stop talking about starting, stay off, Twitter, and just do your job. He’s so selfish. Embrace being the 6th (oline)man.

    /wrong Cleveland sports team’d

  • jewpants47

    “What I’ve learned most from those guys is their demeanor. How focused they are. They set themselves aside differently than your average NFL player. They are very consistent and very focused and very task oriented.”
    – Gilkey DID NOT say of Manziel

  • Pat Leonard

    Well done (Waiters’d). I like John Greco as my 6th man! Versitile guy, can play all 3 interior positions on the OL. I hope Gilkey can beat him out for the starting job in camp.

  • mgbode

    I couldn’t believe that they didn’t give me a call rather than put Cousins on the field.

  • Pat Leonard

    I think you fell victim to that old Catch-22 when looking for a new job: you need work experience to get a job to get work experience.

  • mgbode

    that’s okay. my future book & movie deal will sell much better if I don’t play in the NFL until after I’m 40yo and Bitonio is going to blaze the trail for those with MMA experience.

  • 6thCity

    We have two really good OL players, and a 3rd likely hit (Shwartz/Bitonio should give us really good odds of at least one more stand out player) on the roster. Honestly, it would be incredibly rare and lucky to find more. What we need are guys like Gilkey, guys with “low value” in drafts or trades, but high productivity. We don’t need him to play like an all-pro, we just need to not hear his name during games. Here’s hoping.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com/ WFNYRick

    Appreciate it Garry. These are my favorite types of pieces to write. They just involve a level of access I don’t always have.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com/ WFNYRick

    upbeat, polite and doesn’t have a mean bone in his body would also apply to Joe Thomas and Jason Pinkston. I think those qualities are fine in an o-lineman. Defense might be another story…

  • mgbode

    Fair enough.