Gilmore out to prove he’s among NFL’s best corners

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) – Stephon Gilmore remembers one of the last times he was ever pushed around on the football field.

Growing up in South Carolina, the Buffalo Bills cornerback was in the 10th grade when he and the rest of the South Pointe high school defense was essentially bowled over by an opponent’s run-heavy, wing-T offense. A few days later, the self-described “scrawny” kid approached coach Bobby Carroll, asking for the keys to the weight room so he could start working out on Sundays.

“After that,” Gilmore said, “it was history.”

Gilmore went on to help South Pointe go 15-0 and win a state title, earned South Carolina’s “Mr. Football” honors, and was a three-year starter at the University of South Carolina.

Then, following his junior year, he was selected by Buffalo with the No. 10 pick of the 2012 draft.

Entering his fifth season in Buffalo, Gilmore is making the assertion he deserves being considered among the NFL’s elite cornerbacks.

It’s a bold answer Gilmore provided whenever the question of whether he belongs in that class came up this offseason.

“I know I am,” he said upon reporting to training camp.

And he didn’t shy away from it during an interview with The Associated Press a few weeks later.

“Yeah, I’ve said it. But like I’ve said, I feel like I am the best,” Gilmore said. “But I’m not going to say it every day or tweet it out or anything like that. I’m just going to go about my business and show you on the field.”

Gilmore has plenty of motivation to prove himself. He’s making a little over $11 million after the Bills picked up the option on the fifth and final year of his contract.

Though the Bills would like to re-sign Gilmore, and the player is open to staying in Buffalo, there has been little progress in negotiations since general manager Doug Whaley said the lines of communications were open last month.

Gilmore prefers a deal to be reached before the Bills open their season at Baltimore on Sept. 11. If all else fails, the Bills hold the option to retain Gilmore’s rights next season by designating him as their franchise player.

“If it gets done, it gets done,” Gilmore said. “I mean, I don’t know the possibility. I just know what I’m worth.”

Gilmore has been a starter since his rookie season in 2012. In 53 games, he has nine interceptions and been credited with 50 pass breakups, including a career-best 18 last season.

Coach Rex Ryan notes the only thing missing from completing Gilmore’s resume is creating more turnovers. That doesn’t take away how good Gilmore is in Ryan’s eyes.

“I think his game has improved to where he’s at his very best right now,” Ryan said. “He’s a complete player regardless of what you play, zone, man, he can do everything. But yeah, I’d love for him to have more interceptions this year.”