IONIA, Mich. -- A piece of sports history from the 1979 NCAA Championship has been discovered and put back in the hands of the man who autographed it.
Gerald Gilkie, former forward on the Spartan championship team, was recently reunited with a piece of the game floor he autographed nearly 40 years ago. The championship floor was torn up bit by bit and given to MSU after their victory.
The entire team, including Magic Johnson, signed the floor. But Gilkie's priceless piece of history soon disappeared for decades after being sold to the public.
“While Larry Bird and those guys were over there crying, we were marching down the line and getting our watches," Gilkie said.
The NCAA gave the '79 team gold Bulova watches with the organization's insignia inscribed on the face. Gilkie also has a championship ring but says he's most proud of this newly obtained signature floor piece.
"Someone found value in that name," Gilkie said.
The championship floor piece with Gilkie's signiture was sold multiple times, making its way from East Lansing to Chicago before recently being found by an anonymous coworker and friend of Gilkie's.
That determined friend spent three months searching for the tile, eventually unearthing it in Pennsylvania.The former national champ currently counsels prisoners at the Ionia Correctional Facility, a profession he's been mastering for over twenty years.
"What a wonderful gesture," Gilkie said. "I was floored and stunned that out of the kindness of her heart she would give me this. It brought joyful tears to my eyes."