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Gibson returns kicks for U of Mary; Former West Fargo Packer star nurses injured shoulder

Former West Fargo Packer football player, Rob Gibson, returns a kick for 30 yards for the University of Mary opening game in Chadron, Nebraska. University of Mary fell to # 10 ranked Chadron 27-14. Submitted by Anna Frissell

Former all-state Packer quarterback Rob Gibson, playing for his second college football team, is starting to see the rewards for his hard work.

A 2007 West Fargo High graduate, Gibson red shirted at University of Minnesota-Duluth for a year before transferring to University of Mary in Bismarck last season where he sat out the mandatory one year. He transferred to Mary after a coaching change in Duluth resulted in changes in the Bulldogs' offensive strategy.

Now, Gibson, a QB with an injured throwing shoulder, is playing receiver and seeing plenty of action returning kicks and punts.

It's time to catch up with Gibson, a three-sport high school star who a couple years ago had his name in these pages weekly.

The following is a question and answer session with Gibson, the 2006-07 Pioneer athlete of the year.

Question: How's your season going so far? I know you're returning kicks now, is that right?

Answer: Well, our season is going pretty good. We played Chadron State, Neb., and that was a real good game. We lost 30-14, but we had them on the ropes at halftime, it was 7-7. We came out kind of slow in the second half. Our special team is playing really well as far as kickoff returns. I'm back there (with another guy). We put all the best guys on the special teams, the blockers and so forth, so the guys that are running with me are pretty much the best on the team. A lot of teams don't put their number one guys out there on special teams, but we do that. It's easier to return the ball behind the best blockers on the team. [The Marauders beat Upper Iowa University last Saturday, 48-31].

Q: What goes through your mind when you are returning a kick and a whole wall of a football team is trying to cream you? Is there a process or strategy?

A: This probably sounds cocky, but I pretty much know that I'm quicker than all the guys that are coming down, because they are coming straight and full speed at you. All you have to do is make one move to the side and they'll just run by you. So you pretty much know you're not going to get creamed unless you run into someone or are so nervous you don't cut. You kind of come up at them, set them up and make them miss. Maybe some guy will hit you barely from the side and take you down, but it's really easy to return kicks because they are coming at you out of control pretty much. [Gibson has returned four kickoffs this year for 89 yards].

Q: You're not the quarterback right now. Are you backing up then?

A: I'm playing receiver right now. I tore some ligaments in my right elbow and I can't throw the ball right now. I just moved to H-back. We were throwing the ball a lot, and all of a sudden one day I could only throw like 10 yards, so I went to the doctor. He said I tore ligaments in my right elbow and I couldn't throw anymore. So I started returning punts and kicks and playing receiver. Coach said I would be able to play quarterback again. The doctor said it's going to be a matter of time. I have to let it heal, it's just time. The doc said I'm not going to be able to throw this year. It actually hurts pretty bad when I throw.

Q: Take us through an average football day for us.

A: I stay in the dorms on campus now. We have meetings at 7 a.m., and after that we go to class from 8 until 1, with lunch in there. From 1 to 3 I'm off, and then 3 o'clock we'll have special team meetings for football and then practice until 6. Then the day's pretty much over and it's time for homework.

Q: I'm assuming you talk pretty regularly with your dad about football. How often do you talk to him? I suppose he gives you advice on things? [Rob's dad, Jay, is the Packer head football coach].

A: Yeah, he does. He gives me a lot of advice. I respect him as a coach big time, because he's a really positive coach. He's shown me things about negative coaches and pointed little things out, so that I'm more positive and stuff. He was a punt returner and kick returner in college too. He played football and basketball at UND. If I make a mistake, he tells me how to correct it, because he's a pretty smart guy. Just keep going out there and try as hard as you can.

Q: Which Packer football players that you played with do you still keep in contact with?

A: Actually, to tell you the truth, I talk to pretty much everyone I played with, especially the guys that graduated senior year. [Two fellow '07 Packer graduates are still playing football along with Gibson. Broc Bellmore is the backup nose guard at UND, while Sean Spiker is a linebacker at Concordia].

Q: What are your plans after football then? Teaching and coaching?

A: I want to coach football, or basketball, or track, baseball, any of those sports, but football is the main one that I would want to coach at the high school level for sure. I'm going to be a teacher. I'm majoring in education with a coaching minor, but I don't know what subject (I'll teach).