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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, October 4, 2002

Broncos' Gilligan returns even more determined

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

BOISE, Idaho — In the chill of the day, Boise State football player Tim Gilligan walks around without wearing shoes, oblivious to the jagged pebbles on the walkway leading to the Bronco locker room.

"He's tough," teammate Brock Forsey said of the 5-foot-8, 164-pound Gilligan.

That's an understatement, considering the way Gilligan has rebounded from two traumatic incidents last season. While waiting to catch a punt, Gilligan was floored by a Tulsa player, who then raced to the sideline to exchange high-fives with teammates. A week later, Gilligan suffered a concussion when he was decked by a Fresno State player — again while the punt still was in flight.

In the locker room after the Fresno State game, BSU coach Dan Hawkins recalled how Gilligan was an emotional mess. But Gilligan declined an offer to relinquish his job returning punts.

Still, he admitted: "I was a little timid at first. I wasn't sure how I would react. It took a little time to get back there."

But Gilligan said returning kicks is in his blood, and he has volunteered to play on special teams since high school.

"It gives you a chance to make plays, and I want to be a play-maker," he said.

This year, Gilligan is fourth in the Western Athletic Conference in punt returns, averaging 10.2 yards. He has not signaled for a fair catch this season.

"I don't like to fair catch," said Gilligan, whose team plays host to Hawai'i tomorrow at Bronco Stadium. "I want to catch the ball and return it."

He said it "was tough to get back there again and not think about (getting hit early). I've had a lot of help from with the rest of the team blocking for me. They give me a lot of encouragement to stay back there."

Forsey praised Gilligan's courage, saying, "Anytime you take a blow like that — two blows — you have to wonder if he'll go back there and be tentative. He did a good job of shaking it off and acting like nothing happened."

Gilligan said he often wonders if he was victimized because "maybe (opponents) don't like the fact I don't fair catch ... like it's disrespecting them. I don't know."

But the two illegal hits on Gilligan drew the attention of NCAA officials, who increased the penalty for breaking the "halo" rule, so named because of the imaginary circle that a defender cannot encroach until a punt returner touches the ball. The penalty has doubled from 5 yards to 10, but because it is marked off from the edge of the halo — 2 yards from the punt returner — it actually amounts to 12 yards.

"I took a couple of cheap shots, but I'm glad they changed the rule and the penalty," Gilligan said.