Stephen F. Austin isn't the school most people think of when talking about college football in the state of Texas. But the school of just over 11,000 students has had some success in its 100-year program history. The Lumberjacks won the WAC conference title in 2022 on the back of a 5'9 receiver named Xavier Gipson.
Gipson, now a household name after his game-winning punt return touchdown in his first NFL game for the New York Jets, didn't have the easiest path to football stardom. But, like most undrafted players, he made his opportunities count. Here's how Gipson got to the NFL.
The vitals on Xavier Gipson
School: Stephen F. Austin
Position: Wide receiver/Kick Returner/Punt Returner
Weight: 189 pounds
Years active: 2019-2022
Here are Xavier Gipson's college career stats:
|Year||Games||Rec||Rec Yards||YPC||Rec TDs||Returns||Return Yards||Return TDs|
Xavier Gipson as a high school prospect
Before Stephen F. Austin, Gipson attended Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, about 165 miles northeast from the Lumberjacks' home stadium in Nagadoches, Texas. Woodrow Wilson isn't exactly a football powerhouse in Texas, but they have had their fair share of talent come through their program. It remains the only public high school in America to produce two Heisman trophy winners. Davey O'Brien and Tim Brown both spent their high school days playing for the Wildcats.
In high school, Gipson mostly played cornerback and ran track. He was rated a three-star cornerback by 247Sports and committed to SMU the summer before his senior season. After a strong final season at Woodrow Wilson where Gipson notched three special teams touchdowns, he decommitted from SMU and quickly flipped his college intentions to Stephen F. Austin.
Xavier Gipson's college stats
Gipson provided an instant impact for Stephen F. Austin in his freshman season. He led the team in every major receiving category, with 52 catches for 934 yards and seven touchdowns in his first collegiate season, while also averaging more than 20 yards per kick return. For his strong season, Gipson was named a freshman All-American by HERO Sports.
Gipson's sophomore season provided more of the same, as he once again led the Lumberjack's receiving group. He hauled in more than half of the team's receiving touchdowns with nine scores on the season. Gipson also logged his first collegiate punt return touchdown with a 42-yard score against Angelo State. In the same game, he hauled in five receptions for 177 yards and two touchdowns.
In 2021 Gipson was named an FCS All-American after leading the division with 1,367 receiving yards. Gipson also logged 15 total touchdowns, including a 70-yard punt return score against Mississippi Valley State.
In his final year in Nagadoches, Gipson once again exceeded his lofty expectations, mostly as a returner. He averaged 25 yards per return, and scored twice in this role. Gipson was named WAC offensive player of the year as well as a first-team All-American.
Career honors for Xavier Gipson
- WAC offensive player of the year (2022)
- First-team All-American (2022)
- First-team All-WAC (2021, 2022)
- AP FCS All-American (2021)
- Southland Preseason All-Conference — KR (2020)
- Southland Preseason All-Conference — WR (2020)
- HERO Sports Freshman All-American — First Team Offense (2019)
- Southland All-Conference Second Team — WR (2019)
- Southland All-Conference Third Team — KR (2019)
- STATS LLC Jerry Rice Award Watch List — (2019)