Posted: 8:05 a.m.
MOBILE, Ala. - Bengals fans aren't the only ones thinking that the University of Cincinnati wide receiver Mardy Gilyard is a perfect fit in April's NFL Draft. Gilyard admitted Sunday night here at the Senior Bowl that he recently revealed a scenario to his brother.
"I told my brother that if I could pull an Eli Manning, I'd be in orange and black next year," Gilyard said as he walked to the North's first team meeting of the week. "I feel like I can do so much good for them. I can play in the slot. I can help return kicks. I can go outside. I can help. I want to be there if I could make it happen."
Gilyard sees the void clearer than most. He became close with late Bengals receiver Chris Henry and attended his Dec. 22 funeral. He is on Pro Bowl receiver Chad Ochocinco's cell phone. He's only 5-11, weighs 182 pounds, and runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash. But everyone in Cincy knows his enormous resumé of game-changing plays and extreme toughness in becoming a major leader for the greatest Bearcats team ever.
He's one of those guys that is targeted everywhere from late first round to mid second round and now the question is if the Bengals 21st pick in the first round is too high or in the neighborhood. But Gilyard knows being with The Ocho would be just right.
"He's my big brother; that's my best friend," said Gilyard, a frequent Paul Brown Stadium fan. "I try to get a chance to talk to him on Sundays after games. I tell Big Bro all the time I want to be as good as him, if not better, and he's the only one that can help me do that. I zone in when I'm watching him. I try to watch him from behind when I'm watching him. Plus, we're like brothers. If I have a bad game, he's going to let me have it. If he has a bad game, I'm going to let him have it. It's fun to have a guy like that."
Gilyard knows better than most what the Bengals lost in Henry, their best downfield threat. He and Henry simply hit it off over the past two years. Gilyard signed with Henry's agent, Dave Lee, and had planned a New Year's trip with Henry to Henry's hometown of New Orleans before the 'Cats made the Sugar Bowl.
"That was a hard loss," he said. "That was tough talking to his little brother Marcus and everybody telling me how high Chris was on me. I knew we were buddies and cool. But his brother kept telling me, 'Chris doesn't open up to anybody like that.' We just talked about life in general. People couldn't understand why we were so close, but once you meet somebody and you mesh like that, it's a good feeling. You almost have to open up."
ANOTHER CORD: The Zimmers' year of triumph and tragedy has another chapter.
Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer watched New Orleans win the NFC title Sunday night in overtime over the Vikings from a Superdome club seat with daughter Marki, sending Saints assistant linebackers coach Adam Zimmer to the Super Bowl.
The person missing was wife and mother Vikki Zimmer, who died suddenly back in October, and there were other memories washing through Mike Zimmer an hour or so after the game. Asked how old Adam was when he accompanied him to his Super Bowl with the Cowboys as secondary coach in 1995, Zimmer had to check with his son.
"He says he was 11. He held my cord that day on the sidelines," Mike Zimmer said of his headset. "I'm going to have to ask him now if he'll let me hold his cord."
Mike Zimmer, who became close with Saints head coach Sean Payton in Dallas, approved of all the fumbles forced by the Saints. But you can imagine how the ultra intense Zimmer enjoyed his seat.
"It's the first time I've ever sat in the stands at a pro game," he said. "These fans are nuts. Except for maybe the Colts beating the Jets, in all these games it's been turnovers that made the difference."
Zimmer is headed to the Senior Bowl on Monday, a quick two-hour drive from New Orleans.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Former Bengals linebacker Tim Terry, an assistant director of personnel in Green Bay, knew how big of a win it was for the Bengals when they beat the Packers, 31-24, on the road in the second game of this past season: "A solid team. I think their linebackers are going to be one of the top groups in the league. Rey Maualuga is a great player and Keith Rivers is coming off two great years."
» Speaking of Bengals linebackers, another former Mark Duffner backer, Brian Simmons, made his Senior Bowl debut Sunday night. Simmons, hired by the Jaguars back in June as an East Coast scout, recalled that he turned down his Senior Bowl invite coming out of North Carolina 12 years ago. He laughed when asked if Brian Simmons The Scout now agrees with that move by Brian Simmons The Rookie.
"I do," he said. "I had sprained my MCL in the bowl game and I wanted to make sure I was totally healthy before getting on the field."
It didn't hurt him. He still went No. 17 in the first round, courtesy of the Dan Wilkinson trade.
» After watching Saints receiver Devery Henderson score a touchdown Sunday night, here's a Senior Bowl flashback from when Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis' staff coached the North in 2004.
They really liked Henderson's downfield speed and they saw it in the game when Henderson, out of LSU, caught a touchdown bomb from North Carolina State quarterback Philip Rivers. The Bengals situation at receiver now isn't all that different than it was back then with T.J. Houshmandzadeh a big question mark coming off a season he played in just two games.
But the Bengals draft plans had to change when second-year cornerback Dennis Weathersby was involved in a career-ending car accident. When the second round came, they opted for Florida cornerback Keiwan Ratliff at No. 49. The Saints went with Henderson at No. 50. You wonder. One thing it would have impacted is they probably wouldn't have taken Henry the next year in the third round.