Ted Gilmore was an All-City League wide receiver at Wichita South in 1984 and an outstanding pass catcher at Butler Community College and the University of Wyoming.
And in 18 years as a college football coach, instructing wide receivers has always been a part of his job duties.
There's probably not a more experienced receivers coach in the country and Gilmore, 44, was honored recently by FootballScoop as the nation's wide receivers coach of the year for his work this season at Southern California, his first with the Trojans after six years at Nebraska.
Gilmore has a story many coaches will recognize. Unfulfilled by the jobs he had after college and dissatisfied with his opportunities, he started pursuing a master's degree at Wyoming in 1994.
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"I need to figure out my next move,'' he said.
As a graduate assistant on the football team, Gilmore discovered how much he loved the coaching side of the game and he has never known another life.
He has been at Wyoming, Kansas, Houston, Purdue, Colorado, Nebraska and now USC, which had one of the most high-powered offenses in the country.
Two of Gilmore's receivers, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, had the most combined receptions for two players among BCS schools.
"When I was back going to school at Wyoming the fire just kind of re-lit,'' Gilmore said. "And I found out how important college athletics and football were to me.''
Gilmore signed with Wichita State to play football during his senior year at South but when he started hearing rumblings that the Shockers' football program could be in danger of being eliminated because of years of apathy and losing records, he opted instead for Butler, where he played for two seasons. He led Wyoming in receiving in 1988, but was not thinking about a coaching career in those days.
"I have since discovered that coaching is another way of satisfying those competitive juices we have,'' Gilmore said. "I love dealing with these young men every day. When I went back to school at Wyoming, it wasn't necessarily to come back to coach. I was coming back to school and figured coaching was a vehicle to do that and to get paid for doing it. I discovered how much I had missed football.''
Gilmore also has experience as a recruiting coordinator, having been in that position for four seasons at Nebraska. He has aspirations to be a head coach
"Ted has always been outgoing and always had big dreams about what he wanted to do,'' said Gilmore's older brother, Darrell Berry. "I think he really, really wanted to be a professional football player but the injuries he had at Wyoming led him into coaching. And now that's what he loves.''
Gilmore is the youngest of eight siblings, all of whom grew up together in a small house. His mother, Lillie Gilmore, said the difficult circumstances of his youth did not discourage Ted from setting goals.
"He's my baby and he always did have his dreams,'' said Lillie, who still lives in Wichita, as do all of her other children. "Football is how he got his scholarship to college. I'm very proud of him.''
But not just for what Gilmore has done as a football coach.
Lillie's pride goes deeper and is mostly connected to the character traits a mother desires most from her children.
"He's a nice young man, very mannerly,'' she said. "I always taught him to carry himself that way so he's always been that way. He's a good father and he supports his family (a wife, Jennifer, and two children). Those are the things that mean the most to me.''
Gilmore was hired by USC coach Lane Kiffin in February and helped turn two young Trojans receivers into two of the best in the country.
Woods, a sophomore, was an All-Pac-12 pick and set USC's single-game reception record with 16 against Minnesota in the 2011 season opener. He had seven games with at least 100 yards in receiving, including a career-best 255 yards on 14 catches against Arizona. Woods ranks third national in receptions per game (9.2), is tied for second in touchdown receptions (15) and is ninth in receiving yards per game (107.7).
Lee, the Pac-12 co-offensive freshman of the year, had 73 receptions, the second most ever by a USC freshman. He finished the season with 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns.
They were being thrown to by junior Matt Barkley, one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
Gilmore couldn't have landed in a better spot.
"A great quarterback and some really good receivers kind of feed off one another,'' Gilmore said. "I've never seen a quarterback labeled as 'great' unless he had some guys catching the ball for him. It goes hand in hand.''
Gilmore said his experience as a receiver is his No. 1 attribute when it comes to coaching.
"I know what these guys are thinking and we're talking the same language,'' he said. "I don't think I have a unique approach when it comes to coaching these guys, but it's a consistent one. I'm a teacher, first and foremost, and I want them to understand why I want them to do the things I ask them to do. I want them to understand the 'why' of the little things we talk about.''
Gilmore coached five of the eight career reception leaders at Nebraska and has helped produce a number of top-flight receivers, including Marcus Harris, Wyoming; Taylor Stubblefield and John Standeford, Purdue; D.J. Hackett and Derek McCoy, Colorado; and Nate Swift and Terrence Nunn, Nebraska.
"There was a time when I was really hopping around in this business,'' said Gilmore, who in a span of six years coached at five schools. "But all of these moves I made have been by choice.''
Gilmore has been good at making choices. It started with his decision to go to Butler instead of Wichita State out of high school.
"At that age, I wouldn't say I had some of the problems that some of my buddies had, but I think I was open to distractions,'' Gilmore said. "Leaving and going away, even if it was just 20 miles, I knew I had to make it work.''
He's been making it work ever since.