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We go over the instructions and his excitement for the interview is uncontrollable. His passion for the game is evident and his thirst for stardom is inevitable.
Justin Gibbons, a cornerback out of Aurora University, is from Sacramento, California. The middle child between two sisters, Gibbons grew up loving football. “I started playing when I was nine-years-old and just fell in love with the game,” says Gibbons. The California native ate, drank and slept football.
In high school, Gibbons played wide receiver and safety throughout high school. Going into college, the cornerback position is what he fell in love with. “It was players like Deion Sanders and Charles Woodson that really gave me a love for the pageantry of the game,” remembers Gibbons.
Gibbons is not your typical cornerback we’ve grown to see. Standing at 6’3″ weighing 200 pounds, he’s still smooth with his foot work yet physical while possessing speed. “My biggest attribute is my awareness. The fact that I played receiver helps. As soon as the ball is in the air, I turn into a receiver,” said Gibbons. He has the ability to tower over his opponent at the line of scrimmage and while being physical, turn his hips when need to and make a play at the ball.
Although he’s a big fan of Sanders and Woodson, Gibbons is mostly compared to Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. Both players have similar attributes being tall and lengthy, physical and ballhawks. “The length, size, the quick feet, hips and even the aggressive nature, I see a lot of myself in him.”
“I started playing when I was nine-years-old and just fell in love with the game”
During his freshman year at San Diego College in 2010, Gibbons ran track and didn’t play football. In doing that, he tore his meniscus and of course it slowed him down. “I didn’t get knee surgery until about two years later. I fell out of love for just being an athlete,” said the NFL prospect. He stopped playing sports and worked a regular job.
In 2014, Gibbons decided to give it another shot at playing sports at Orange Coast College but with the injury and time off, he wasn’t so sure he could be affective enough to make the team. “There was a lot of self-doubt involved like you’re not going to be fast enough, strong enough and your knee won’t hold up.” As he pushed through the doubt and pain, Gibbons was able to not only make the team but become an All-American decathlete.
The All-American received multiple Division I scholarships but in the midst of all this great success, he received the worst news possible at that time. “I was told by the compliance officer that I wasn’t Division I eligible,” said Gibbons. “I was shocked and couldn’t believe it.” Gibbons time off ended up costing him his eligibility to play at a division I school .
“My world just fell apart and was a part of me that said I don’t want to do this anymore.”
Gibbons decided to stick with it and chose Aurora University, a Division III school. “My thought was if I’m going to go to a Division III school then it might as well be a school where they are going to let me run track and play football,” said Gibbons.
“My biggest attribute is my awareness. The fact that I played receiver helped. As soon as the ball is in the air, I turn into a receiver”
As excited as he was, there were multiple changes that the transfer student had to endure. Playing at a new college and dealing with the environment wasn’t the same as California. On the field was where Gibbons had to adjust the most. “We played a game where the first half was pouring rain and the second half it was sleet and snow the second half,” stated Gibbons.
Still dealing with the change and the doubt of knowing if he was good enough, Gibbons had his mom and family in his corner. There was also someone else who played a big part in his growth. “My coach, Rick Ponx has been the most supportive individual in this process,” says Gibbons. “There’s never been a second where he’s doubted my ability to play at the next level.”
Gibbons fought with the doubt of making it to the next level due to the fact of coming from a small school. Ponx constantly pushed him to get better and work harder. There was a certain message that coach embedded in Gibbons. “If you’re good they will find you. He [Ponx] always said that to me,” Gibbons remembers. Ponx not only focused on playing ability but focused on character traits as well.
Gibbons skills became noticeable during his senior season which led to an invite to the Tropical Bowl, a bowl game for elite seniors across the country in Daytona, Florida. “It was an amazing experience and to play against competition from top Division I schools was great.” The former track star held his own and impressed not only scouts but his fellow teammates. “Playing with a three-year starting safety from Georgia University and a two-year starter from South Carolina and they both tell you that you would have started on our team was great.”
Gaining confidence after the Tropical Bowl, the lengthy cornerback was invited with multiple Division III players to Northwestern’s pro day. They were allowed to do a 40-yard-dash but Gibbons was the only player to be hand picked by the NFL scouts to fully participate with the Northwestern pro day. “It was awesome to know that they had interest in me and all of the hard work and dedication payed off,” said Gibbons.
“If you’re good they will find you. He [Ponx] always said that to me,”
Gibbons wowed the scouts with his pro day posting a 4.45 (40-time) according to some scouts, 32 vertical, and 7.17 in the cone. After his performance, the NFL prospect spoke with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears. The Bears invited him to work out for them on April 13th. A few days later, he received a call from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, a CFL (Canadian Football League) team, who wants to work him out at his university.
“My goal is not just to end up on a roster but potentially get drafted. It’s up to me how I take advantage of these opportunities.”