EWU's Gibbs travels to transition
Former Eagles basketball player moves to the gridiron
Duane Cross, NCAA.com
FRISCO, Texas -- “Go West, young man” is advice popularly attributed to Horace Greely in the 1800s, when expansion of the United States was a hot topic. Alden Gibbs followed the directive, first to California and now in Cheney, Wash.
But even that doesn’t begin to tell the tale of Gibbs, a junior defensive back for Eastern Washington. Gibbs’ trail leads from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Weed, Calif., where he played junior college basketball for the College of the Siskiyous. Yes, basketball.
Did we mention Gibbs also is the only member of the EWU 89-man roster who hails from east of the Mississippi River?
Gibbs joined the EWU basketball team for the 2009-10 season, started 14 of 23 games and averaged 2.6 points and 3.3 rebounds. Now, he’s on the Eagles’ football team playing in the FCS Championship Game against Delaware (7 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN2/espn3.com).
Injured during his season with the Eagles’ basketball team, Gibbs considered transferring. “Coach [Torey] Hunter told me I should come out for the football team,” Gibbs said. “I played football in high school [Canarsie H.S.], so I came out over the summer and now here I am -- playing for a national championship.”
Gibbs’ practice regiment includes defending the pass against Eastern Washington’s Bo Levi Mitchell, the Eagles’ standout quarterback who transferred from Southern Methodist University.
“At first I was little skeptical. Just how much football has he played,” Mitchell said of the hoops player trying out for the rough-and-tumble gridiron team. “But when Alden came out here, it wasn’t that hard of a transition.
“I swear to this day I have not [completed] a corner ball on him. I throw a corner ball out there and think, ‘That’s a good throw,’ and then he just jumps up there and ... that range, it’s just crazy. He has the range, those long legs and the speed. Once he gets the playbook down, he’s going to be good.”
EWU head coach Beau Baldwin also likes what he see from Gibbs, who has played in eight games with two tackles in his first action since high school. “He’s 6-3 with, I believe, a 38-inch vertical jump, and I knew he was an amazing athlete from what he did on the basketball court.
“I knew he played high school football but it’s not like we had much film on him; he was at our university to play basketball. I just flat-out said, ‘Yeah, I’m going to give you a shot to walk on.’
“The best thing about Alden is that he was willing to do whatever. He’s at a point now where he’s not playing a ton, not defensively but [is] on special teams, but you give him a calendar year [of playing football] and he can be really special for us next year. I’m really excited where Alden is.”
Gibbs admits he’s a long way from home but the winding road has been the journey of a lifetime. “When I first came out, I didn’t have my footwork right and people didn’t think I’d be a football player.
“As time went on, the extra work I put in with some of the players on the team, I got a lot better. I always tell them I’m the best cover corner that we’ve got, even though I’m not a starter -- yet.”
Need to Know
• The Eagles finished 8-0 at newly-renamed Roos Field this year, the first time EWU has run the table on its home turf since 1999 (4-0). And what a home turf it is: Eastern Washington’s home field is an all-red synthetic turf installed by Sprinturf.
Nicknamed the "Inferno,” the field was made possible by a $500,000 gift from Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Michael Roos and his wife, Katherine. Subsequent donations made the field renovation a reality in time for the 2010 season.
Eastern Washington joined Boise State and the University of New Haven as programs that have embed their school colors in their football field.
• Under the “do unto others” category is this: Delaware was the top-ranked FCS team before losing to Villanova on Nov. 20; the Blue Hens fell to fifth. The new No. 1? Eastern Washington, of course.
In the FCS playoffs, the Eagles are the No. 5 seed. Delaware is No. 3 -- and looking to reclaim the top spot in the national championship game.
• Eastern Washington TE Matt Martin and LB J.C. Sherritt were named to the 13th annual FCS Athletics Directors Association Academic All-Star Team. Martin and Sherritt are the 10th and 11th EWU players to receive the honor.
Martin has a 3.76 grade point average as a double major in communications and finance. Sherritt, who also is a candidate for the Buck Buchanan Award given to the top defensive player in the FCS, is a health and fitness major with a 3.46 GPA.
Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin lost the starting QB job at Central Washington University to the Dallas Cowboys' Jon Kitna. Baldwin was CWU's quarterbacks coach when Kitna led the Wildcats to the 1995 NAIA title. ... Eastern Washington All-America RB Taiwan Jones suffered a fractured to the base of his fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot during the Eagles' playoff victory against North Dakota State on Dec. 11. Oddly, this type of fracture is referred to as a "Jones Fracture," named after Sir Robert Jones, who first described the fracture pattern in 1902. ... Eastern Washington enters the FCS Championship Game riding a streak of 10 consecutive games in which a running back has rushed for more than 100 yards. Jones had the first nine, and freshman Mario Brown had a career-high 104 yards on 26 carries in the Eagles' FCS semifinals win against Villanova on Dec. 17. ... Eastern Washington has five victories this season after trailing or with the game tied in the fourth quarter, including the 38-31 win against North Dakota State in the playoffs -- the team's first OT game since 2004. EWU is 7-4 all-time in overtime. ... Eastern Washington's only other football national championship game appearance was in 1967, a 28-21 loss to Fairmont State in the NAIA Championship Game.