Yep, it's that time of the year again for David Gilreath.
Inevitably, when the University of Wisconsin football team gears up to face Ohio State, his name will surface, particularly until the Badgers beat OSU for the first time since the night of his legendary 2010 kick return.
"I always tell people the more we don't beat them, the aura of the return gets bigger and bigger," Gilreath said. "I suppose that's how Lee Evans felt (after his big catch against Ohio State in 2003), and he passed the baton over to me. It's not a bad moment to be remembered by."
But 12 years after Gilreath started off an unforgettable 31-18 win over No. 1 Ohio State with a bang, he's a full-time employee with his alma mater and planning for UW's many years ahead. He's the university's director of development, housed in the athletics department.
"We raise major gifts for the athletic department," he explained. "If we have a need for a facility, it's our job to raise money for it. For student-athlete scholarships, programming ... different things we need on campus ... I speak to specific to alumni, donors, stakeholders, volunteers, anybody associated with Wisconsin that wants to use this as anything philanthropic."
Does it help, when he's meeting one on one with potential donors, that he has a heck of a story from when he traveled 97 yards in 12 seconds for one of the biggest wins in the program's recent memory?
"It doesn't hurt, I'll tell you that," he said with a laugh. "It helps when I'm reaching out to the people via email and tell them my story but maybe it hurts a little bit if they're coming to have a meeting about priorities in the athletic department and they just want to re-live the kick return."
After Gilreath saw some action with NFL practice squads and with the Steelers in 2012 for three regular-season games, his success story really begins with another sport entirely — the NBA. He was part of the business development team with the Minnesota Timberwolves for two years, working in the same office as former UW basketball player Greg Stiemsma.
Prior to that, he became involved with a jewelry company based out of Hong Kong called Top Fancy Creation Limited and traveled extensively.
"When I was getting recruited, I kept hearing how we have the most Fortune 500 CEOs in the world (who graduated from Wisconsin), or at least in the country, and I thought it was amazing," Gilreath said. "As you get out of college, you think, 'How do I get ahold of those people?' But those are the people I talk to on a daily basis, CEOs, VPs ... (I can say) even if you don't want to donate here, can I at least have your contact info if Jonathan Taylor (for example) is looking for an opportunity to work when he's done, so he can sit down or shadow for a year? That sort of thing was important for me as I transitioned out of football."
His 3,025 career kickoff return yards are still the most in Badgers history, and he'll always be associated with that play, but you wouldn't necessarily know it when you first meet Gilreath.
"You wouldn't walk into my house and know I played football at all," he said. "I don't know if that's on purpose, but people remind me. I won't forget, even if I tried. I do have a picture of the crowd that stormed the field; it's one of the coolest pictures in Badgers history. My wife, she went to UCLA, and she still doesn't believe that it's a real picture."
They won't storm the field if the Badgers can win in Columbus on Saturday, but it wouldn't be forgotten anytime soon as the shocker that finally got UW back in the win column against the Buckeyes.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: David Gilreath, known for kick return vs. Ohio State, back on UW staff