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Profiles in Badassery: Joe Gilliam

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The former Purdue linebacker passed away from cancer today.

Central Michigan v Purdue Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

We have sad news tonight out of Indianapolis. Joe Gilliam, who played linebacker at Purdue deom 2011-14 under both Danny Hope and Darrell Hazell, passed away earlier today from a rare form of cancer at age 26. According to his high school coach Bill Peebles, who coached him at Southport HS and now coaches at Cathedral, announced his passing on Facebook:

2010 Joe is signing with Purdue as one of the all time greats at Southport. 2014 he’s in his prime as a college senior. 2016 he is diagnosed with a terrible and rare form of cancer. Summer of 2018 his former coaches are honored to visit with him. Today Joe passed away. We are all better people for knowing such a positive and good person. They say the good die young. I say the great never die because they make the world a better place. Joe made the world a better place.

Earlier this year we shared that Joe was battling stage 4 spinal glioblastoma. GIlliam was a solid linebacker for Purdue from 2011-14. As a part-time starter in those four seasons he amassed 103 tackles and a sack, with his best season coming as a sophomore in 2012. That year he had 57 tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble. Unfortuantely, the transition to Hazell meant less playing time in his final two seasons.

Joe leaves behind his young wife, Rachel, as they were married a little over two years, as he was originally diagnosed in July 2017 just after his one year anniversary.

From all accounts Joe was a really good guy. Many of his teammates spoke very highly of him and I was even a substitute teacher at Southport High when he was there as a student. He was a star in the community there and the Purdue family rallied around him earlier this year. After sharing his GoFundMe more than $18,000 were raised for his treatments.

Rest easy, Joe. The Boiler family is praying for you and your family. Hopefully Purdue can give him a moment of silence before the game with Missouri this Saturday.

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It’s been 18 months since we first learned about the tumor that is entangled in Joe’s spine and now spread to his brain. Grade 4 spinal glioblastoma. I will never forget crawling in to his hospital bed in New York City and crying in to his chest while he reassured me that everything would be okay. We always said we would fight this disease until there was no more fight left, and we have reached that point in this journey. Despite every treatment that we’ve tried, the tumor has spread like wildfire and the damage it has caused in Joe’s physical body is beyond repair on this side of eternity. His quality of life is continuing to decline, and I see how tired he is and how ready he is to be with Jesus. We’ve decided that it is time for him to transition to hospice care and he will be taken off the ventilator early next week so that he can cross over in to eternity. My heart is broken, but even when I’m hurting the most, I have this peaceful vision of Joe using his legs for the first time in 18 months to run in to the arms of our Healer. Joseph is my greatest friend and encourager in life. He is, in every way, the most amazing person I have ever known. I could never put in to words how brave he has been and how he has changed my life since he first texted me “Hello, Ms. Taylor” 6 years ago. I am so grateful to know, love and be loved by Joseph. I always think about how vast and complex all of our lives are. How every decision or indecision leads us to the next moment in life. I’m still in disbelief that God allowed our paths to cross and gave me the gift of being Joseph’s wife. J loves me in a way that most people only dream about, and every time I think I couldn’t love him any more than I already do, my heart makes room for more. It will only be by God’s strength that I survive the next phase of life without my man by my side. Thank you for praying with us and holding us close during this season.

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