Why do 7-year-old boys run into their parents' bedrooms in the middle of the night? To seek comfort after a nightmare? After being startled by a noise? How about because they just awoke from deep in a dream where sure as a conversion kick they were playing in the NFL?
Stephon Gilmore was a second-grader in Rock Hill, S.C., when he darted into his parents' bedroom late one night to tell them what had been swirling through his mind moments earlier.
"He said, 'Mom, Mom I was there! I was playing, Mom! I was in the NFL,' " Linda Gilmore recalled Friday. "I was telling him that he was dreaming and he had to go back to bed. And he said, 'No, Mom, I was there! I was there!' "
"He woke me up and sat on my bed. He never changed a word. It was like a vision. He just kept saying, 'I was there. I was there.' So I never believed people could have visions of things that could come true, but that really happened."
Gilmore hit Buffalo with family members Friday after the Bills selected him with the 10th overall pick in Thursday night's opening round of the NFL Draft.
Bills coach Chan Gailey expects Gilmore to challenge for a starting spot right from the get-go. He doubtless will be at the least a contributor in nickel and dime packages as he emerges from the highly competitive and pressure-packed SEC, which could pass as the NFL's primary development conference.
"I think it's prepared me pretty well," Gilmore said. "I've played against players that are doing well in the NFL right now. Me going to the NFL, I want to do well. I'll just keep working hard every day and take it one day at a time."
The nature of the position tests a cornerback's resiliency. Every pass can't be successfully defended. Mistakes and misplays can result in touchdowns. Cornerbacks learn early that there's no benefit to dwelling on their errors.
"I mean things happen, especially at the cornerback spot, so you've got to minimalize the bad plays," Gilmore said. "Things are going to happen and you put it behind you and try to make a play after that.
"I think I have a lot to learn. I do not know it all so I am willing to learn whatever the coaches teach me. I am a confident player no matter what. I go 100 percent and I am just here to learn and do my job."
Gilmore was identified as a prized recruit early in his high school career at South Pointe High School. He starred at both quarterback and cornerback and became a local legend in August 2005 when he faked an option and went 65 yards for a touchdown on the first play ever for the school's newly formed ninth-grade team. It wasn't long thereafter that top colleges in the South had him on their radar. He hits the NFL at 6-foot, 193 pounds.
"I had it narrowed down pretty early to Alabama and South Carolina," Gilmore said. "I didn't want to go to Alabama because they already were a big-time school and I wanted to go to South Carolina because they needed players like myself to get that edge and be a winning program. I think in my three years being there we did that."
It helped that the Gamecocks have in Steve Spurrier a head coach knowledgeable about the mind wars between an offense and a defense.
"He helped me out a lot to try and know what offenses do to defenses," Gilmore said. "He was more of an if you play hard he would go with you. I learned a lot from him. I'm going to miss him."
Gilmore sees his first challenge with the Bills as one of familiarizing himself with NFL talent.
"Just learning what other teams are trying to do to other NFL teams because this is going to be my first time watching film and getting to know the different players," Gilmore said. "I think that's the transition I've got to make."
He could see this day coming way back in the second grade.
"I always dreamed about it," Gilmore said. "I told my mom when I was 7 years old I was getting drafted somewhere. I told my mom that I was going to be a special player and I promised her that. She said she believed in me and told me I could do anything as long as I work hard and the sky is the limit."