A year ago, Jamie Gillan wasn't sure where his future would take him next.
He had just signed a contract as an undrafted free agent punter with the Cleveland Browns, but he faced stiff competition to make the roster in the fall. Britton Colquitt, a nine-year NFL veteran preparing to spend his fourth season in Cleveland, was in front of him.
Gillan, who was only 22, was going to receive plenty of reps in training camp, but he needed to shine if he wanted to remain with the Browns.
Now, Gillan is known by most Browns fans as "The Scottish Hammer" and is one of the most popular — and fun — special teams players in recent Browns memory.
"This might sound silly, but I don't take myself too seriously," Gillan said. "I try to stay pretty relaxed, and I think that helps my mindset a lot. I don't get too worried about having a bad practice during the week because every day is a new day. You're going to have bad days, and I know that I got to go out on a Sunday with a clear head."
That was the mindset Gillan used last season in training camp, when he wowed just about everyone on the practice fields with booming punts that might've soared higher than planes taking off from the nearby Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. In the preseason, Gillan put his leg strength on display with multiple 60-yard moonshots, including a season-long 74-yard blast.
Gillan had done enough for special teams coordinator Mike Priefer. He made the cut and is now set to be the Browns' punter for the foreseeable future.
"I think it would have been very difficult to let a guy like Jamie out of the building," Priefer said at the end of preseason. "He is so talented and has such a big leg swing. The sky is the limit for him."
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Priefer is right — the sky might literally be the limit for Gillan, who's continued to stay in shape and practice his skills from his Southern Maryland home as Browns players await a safe return from the COVID-19 pandemic and report back to Cleveland.
As a punter, however, Gillan can afford to live a more relaxing lifestyle. Aside from weightlifting and punting sessions at a local field with his dad, a former rugby player, there's not much more Gillan can do to make up for his time away from Berea. He doesn't have an endless playbook to study, and he's already developed a close relationship with long snapper Charley Hughlett and kicker Austin Seibert.
So, after the workouts, Gillan has embraced his extra time with his mom, dad and sister. He didn't see them much when he spent his youth in boarding school at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh, Scotland, and he certainly won't have as much time with them when football activities resume. He's watched Netflix and television with his mom and sister, and he built a squat rack with his dad, who uses a rugby-style toss to "snap" the ball to Gillan in his punting practices.
"I'm very blessed that my family is healthy right now," Gillan says as he playfully knocked a beam on the wooden deck behind him to squash the jinx . "We do a lot of chilling out on the porch. I'm really enjoying my family's company, and we try to solve all of the world's problems at this table right here outside. That's about it. In the morning, we work out and do it all over again."
For Gillan, it's a lifestyle that suits him best. His easygoing nature helped him win the Browns job last season, so he doesn't need to change much before he settles into his second year in the league.
When games begin, Gillan hopes he's not needed at all — that means the Browns are scoring touchdowns. But he'll always be ready.
"No punting. We're gonna score," he said with a laugh. "I just got to stay humble and keep working really hard. I can't take it for granted. I got to keep climbing the ladder."