McDONOUGH – Washington Redskins selected Memphis product Antonio Gibson in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft but it was only a matter of time as his story, which is still being written, began.
With Gibson, it was only a matter of time for him to reach that next level after leaving Henry County and the story began in high school before reaching JUCO.
He was a multi-sport athlete. Football, track and field as well as basketball. But it was football that he followed through to the pro-level.
In football, he suffered setbacks in high school starting with his sophomore year.
The current football coach at Eagle’s Landing and one of the few people who didn’t have to play against Gibson in high school was Shawn Jones. A man of few words said that Gibson deserves everything he’s worked for.
“Antonio deserves everything he has worked for. The entire ELHS community is proud of him,” Jones said. “From his early high school setback of breaking his ankle his sophomore year.”
That’s where it began. In his final two seasons, he exploded and earned the Offensive Player of the Year award in 2015. That’s where it became clear that Gibson wasn’t going to take opportunities for granted and he wasn’t done writing his own story.
Former Stockbridge High head coach Kevin Whitley, who’s now at Georgia Southern, recalled Gibson as being a really good player who could run.
“He is a very talented player,” Whitley said. “I believe he went to JUCO coming out of high school. (He) will be a good player in the league.”
But it’s not just the former Stockbridge coach who remembered Gibson and what he brought to the table in high school. Henry County Athletic Director Dr. Curt Miller also chimed in on Gibson’s accomplishments.
“What Antonio was able to accomplish at Eagle’s Landing as a student-athlete and at Memphis is a direct reflection of his work ethic and dedication,” Miller said. “And we cannot wait time see him excel in the NFL with the Redskins!
Ola High head coach Jared Zito never played against Gibson, but he did have an idea of what caliber player he was when he had to coach the senior during a county All-Star game. It was more a memorable play on the first day of practice that showed him how good Gibson was then.
“Well, I remember we threw him a bubble screen the first day of practice and he took it to the house faster than I had ever seen it run,” Zito said. “I said to the other coaches ‘well, I know we need to get him the ball a lot in the game Friday.'”
The road changed for Gibson who had pursued the JUCO route where he attended East Central Community College to continue his football career.
“To going the JUCO route, not playing much his junior year at Memphis, to shining his senior year at Memphis,” Jones said. “The NFL took notice of his abilities and Washington, in particular, is getting a good football player.”
After two years at East Central Community College, Gibson earned another award and was named to the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges First Team All-State South Offense.
That award came in 2017.
He learned many things throughout his journey to Memphis also. Learning that JUCO players want the same thing he wanted, and he had to work 10 times harder to just standout.
That same year, he gave a verbal commitment to the University of Memphis. His story wasn’t over yet as he solidified himself as a competitor. But it was true, he didn’t play much his junior year at Memphis.
He arrived a Memphis and learned that everyone had talent, so he had to figure out what was going to get him on the field. It was a slow start for him.
2018 saw him used sparingly in the offense at Memphis but it was just the beginning. Gibson’s biggest season came in his final year, the year before his draft, and before he could say he was a Washington Redskin.
In 14 games for Memphis, wherever Gibson lined up on the field, he was a threat to teams. He was a running back and a viable receiver for the Tigers. In the run game, Gibson had 33 rushes and picked up 369 yards with four touchdowns total.
In the passing game, he would burn a defense. Gibson caught 38 passes for 735 yards and was often able to score at ease.
Gibson recalled back in a January 2nd interview with me that he saw a note, mistakenly, that questioned him being able to contribute to the team. He didn’t take it to heart but instead, he put his head down and worked.
He had a chip on his shoulder. And rightfully so. He’d worked hard to get there but the question of what he could contribute to the team was still an issue he had to work through.
“Anyone who lines up in front of me is trying to stop me from my future,” Gibson said during our Jan. 2 interview. “And no one is doing that.”
With Gibson being drafted, how he writes the story now is only just another chapter in the book he has been writing since his high school setback. Now, that future is still there and Gibson’s work ethic and ability to prove he belongs will only push him to a brighter future.
From the young kid playing on Friday nights in McDonough, Georgia to now. Gibson has made the most of every opportunity and he’s far from done.