LaGrange’s Gibbs ready for senior season
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
Kale Gibbs isn’t going to be outworked.
Gibbs, a senior running back for the LaGrange Grangers, knew that at some point the coronavirus lockdown was going to end, and that games would hopefully eventually be played.
With that in mind, Gibbs committed himself to being as physically prepared as possible when it came time for teams to get together once again.
“I did plenty of training on my own and made sure my teammates were training, too,” said Gibbs, who won LaGrange’s ironman competition before the 2019 season. “We’d always be texting each other to make sure everybody was getting their work in, getting their workouts in.”
Gibbs is hoping that dedication will pay dividends in a few weeks when a new season gets underway.
LaGrange, after playing preseason games on Aug. 21 and Aug. 28, will open the regular season at Upson-Lee on Sept. 4.
“I can’t wait,” Gibbs said. “It feels like it’s going to be a whole new season. It feels like everything has changed. I’ve never felt more ready. I’ve trained myself to be better than I ever expected myself to be, and I’m ready to go and see what I can do.”
For Gibbs, there will be a monumental change this season.
For the past two seasons, Gibbs has enjoyed playing for his father Chuck Gibbs, who was hired as LaGrange’s head coach before the 2018 season.
Following a second consecutive 2-8 season, though, Gibbs departed as LaGrange’s head coach, and he was replaced by former Callaway High offensive coordinator Matt Napier.
While Chuck Gibbs is no longer coaching at LaGrange, his influence on his son will no doubt be felt on game nights this fall.
“He’s made such a big impact, and he’s one of the biggest reasons I’ve worked,” Kale Gibbs said. “I’d do whatever he asked me to do.”
Napier knows what Kale Gibbs is going through.
As the son of a head football coach himself, Napier is familiar with the peaks and valleys of the coaching business, and he made sure to reach out to Kale Gibbs when he took over the LaGrange program earlier this year.
“The first thing I said was, I’m a coach’s kid,” Napier said. “I completely understand. I know the world of coaching, I know the ups and downs of coaching. I can relate. I know what he’s going through.”
With his offensive background, Napier is looking forward to seeing what Gibbs can do this season.
“He’s explosive, and he’s fast,” Napier said. “He’s extremely strong and he’s a hard worker, and he takes care of his body. He’s really done a great job in the weight room working. He’s real strong from a mental standpoint.”
Gibbs is also healthy, which is a nice change of pace. Gibbs was injured for much of the 2019 season, and even when he was able to play he was far from 100 percent.
Gibbs’ best game last season came in the season opener against Heard County when he ran for 74 yards on just seven carries with a touchdown, and he also caught two passes for 28 yards.
With the injury issues hopefully behind him, Gibbs is eager to make his senior season one to remember.
“To be 100 percent, it’s completely different,” Gibbs said. “To be able to come back and go hard, I’m ready to completely shock everybody. It feels nice.”
Gibbs is also a track-and-field standout at LaGrange, and he was in the midst of a phenomenal junior season when everything was shut down.
Gibbs specialized in the hurdle events, and he delivered some outstanding performances during the shortened season.
At a meet at Landmark Christian, Gibbs was second in the 110-meter hurdles and first in the 300-meter hurdles, and in what turned out to be the final event of the season, he won both hurdle events at a meet in Columbus on March 11.
Considering Gibbs had posted the best 110-meter hurdles time in the state among Class AAAA runners, he would have been a leading contender to bring home a first-place medal at the state meet.
Gibbs doesn’t have to go far to find someone who knows what it takes to succeed in the hurdles. Chuck Gibbs was an outstanding collegiate athlete who competed in the hurdles and played football at West Point.
“My dad was really good at the 300-meter hurdles in high school and college, and he did that for West Point,” Kale Gibbs said. “Every weekend we would go out there, and we would work, and during the week we’d train for football. Every day it was just hurdles after hurdles. It’s just hard work.”
For the moment, Gibbs is focused on football, and Napier is glad to have him on his team.
On a roster with plenty of inexperience, Gibbs provides a veteran presence, and Napier feels he will be a solid role model for his younger teammates.
“His leadership is going to be real big through effort and attitude and leading by example,” Napier said.
When LaGrange does get on the field, Gibbs will have plenty of family support not only from his father and his mother Raquel Gibbs, but from his grandfather Alex Gibbs.
Alex Gibbs is a well-known NFL coach who has molded some of the best offensive lines in NFL history, and his services are still very much in demand, although when he can he’ll be watching his grand-son play.
“The two biggest men who have kept me going are my dad and my grandpa,” Kale Gibbs said. “I have this really big name to live up to as part of the Gibbs family. As time went, I started to realize that people were going to look at me as the person I am.”
Kale Gibbs has without question made a name for himself, on the football field, on the track and in the class room, and he’s happy that after some uncertainty, he’ll get one last chance to show what he can do on the gridiron.
“We were really worried about it,” Gibbs said. “We’re glad we’re playing.”