By LARRY VAUGHT
During recruiting a lot of attention goes to players who either flip their commitment from one school to another — or at least consider it.
But when a player like Isaiah Gibson, a three-star defensive lineman from Ohio, keeps his commitment, sometimes it goes unnoticed. However, Gibson made sure no one could overlook his plan to stay committed to Kentucky by getting a Wildcat tattoo on his leg before national signing day.
“Kentucky is a Wildcat and we (Springfield High School) are Wildcats,” said Gibson, a defensive lineman who played for former UK defensive back Maurice Douglas at Springfield. “Me and my mom talked about it and I just said I might as well just do it.”
His mother, Amy Gibson, had no problem when he came to her about getting the Wildcat tattoo. He already had one on his arm honoring several people.
“He knew from the day he verbally committed that he wanted to be a Wildcat,” she said. “He said, ‘I am a Wildcat now and will be for the rest of my life.’ I was okay with it and he went that day to get it done.”
The 6-4, 300-pound Gibson picked UK over Purdue, Florida, Wisconsin and Louisville. He was a consensus top 50 defensive tackle nationally. Stoops said not only finding top defensive linemen is hard but signing them is even harder because of the intense national competition to add defensive linemen to any team.
“He’s a grinder who does a great job of using his hands to control the offensive linemen. He’s a hard working player, who has a great work ethic every day,” Douglas said.
Gibson said he picked UK because it was “big-time football and they are rolling.” It didn’t hurt that UK was the first team to offer him a scholarship when he was a freshman.
“They offered me early because they saw I was dominant and teams could not stop me,” Gibson said. “I think I am a dominant, powerful player. My speed and reaction are two of my biggest strengths. When I was younger I weighed like 260 pounds and led my baseball team in stolen bases and played first base. I play basketball and primarily I rebound and play defense. I just like competing.”
His mother, who did not know which college he was going to commit to until five minutes before his announcement, says her son wants to be involved in sports the rest of of his life because he loves sports, but football has always been his favorite.
“He probably could have gone to college to play baseball but he stopped playing after his freshman year because he had three (scholarship) offers already for football,” Amy Gibson said. “He’s still playing basketball and it is like hitting a brick wall when a player hits him. It’s not his strongest sport but he rebounds like crazy. He throws the shot put where he broke the school record last year in his first year throwing. He is an athletic kid. I really have not seen anything he’s not good at.”
However, Isaiah Gibson always had one problem when it came to sports.
“No matter what sport he was playing, he would get off the bus and people would say there was no way he was the age to be playing on that team,” Amy Gibson said. “We constantly had to carry his birth certificate with us.”
His 15-year-old brother — who is 6-1, 245 pounds — plays football but his passion is baseball. However, he’s supposed to eventually be bigger than Isaiah. So obviously size runs in the family
But when it comes to big — there’s also Isaiah Gibson’s heart.
“He’s really a gentle giant,” his mother said. “He has the biggest heart. He always stands up for others. He’s friends with everybody — any race, creed. Doesn’t matter who you are, he’ll like you. The person you see with that smile, that’s who he is. I might be a little partial, but I just think he is a great guy. But then he puts on that football uniform and something clicks in his head and it’s time to go to war for however long the game lasts. Once the game is over, it’s done.
“He’s just always been that way. Kids are drawn to him. He always wants to play with or entertain them. He will run around and play tag and hide and seek with kids. He’ll do whatever kids want him to do to make them happy because he has such a big heart.”
Yet the Ohio defensive lineman was a bit surprised with the response he got from UK football fans on social media after he committed to the Cats.
“Fans are always reaching out to me and probably think I won’t respond. But if fans reach out to me, I am going to respond. Even if I eventually make the NFL, that’s just me. I was raised to be respectful. I am just a people person,” Gibson said.
That’s why his mother still laughs at how her son was surprised when they came to a UK football game that fans asked him to stop and take a picture.
“He was like, ‘How do they know me?’ I told him because they all followed him on Twitter,” Amy Gibson said. “Kentucky fans on Twitter are amazing. They are die-hard. During the recruiting process they never missed a beat with him, so I think it’s really going to be fun for him and the fans once he gets to Kentucky.”