Football: Deonte Gibson staying focused despite persistent injuries


Nathan Richards/Daily Senior Staffer

Junior defensive end Deonte Gibson lunges at a Michigan ball-handler. When not battling injuries, Gibson has provided steady play on the defensive line during his three years on the field for Northwestern.

Rohan Nadkarni, Reporter

Deonte Gibson needed a change.

After wearing No. 98 for his first two seasons on the field at Northwestern, he switched to No. 13 this year in part to move on from a five-win season and in part to forget a season where he lost some time due to an injury. The junior wanted a fresh start.

So it was difficult for Gibson to miss most of two games because of an injury and find his team in the middle of a four-game losing streak. Although a jersey switch couldn’t cure all of his problems, Gibson still believes the simple things are the key to turning the Wildcats’ season around.

“You resort to what you’re taught, your fundamentals,” Gibson said. “When things get hard, you just have to keep carrying through. Your fundamentals will carry you no matter what the situation is.”

It makes sense that Gibson is focused more on the fundamentals than the flash. Although his talent has always been apparent, Gibson is known more for his consistent, reliable effort as opposed to eye-catching play.

Gibson is an everyman, one of the glue guys of the Cats’ defensive line, which has often been a bright spot in a dull season. Gibson especially excels at making plays in the backfield. After seven tackles for loss last season, Gibson continues to rack up tackles and notched his first career recovery against Western Illinois.

Gibson’s consistent, reliable play takes its toll. It’s not uncommon to see Gibson wearing garishly big braces on his arms or legs while playing, as he’s missed time in his career due to knee and elbow injuries. As his head coach Pat Fitzgerald said, “he’s been through a lot of battles.”

One of the battles Gibson has faced this year is increasing responsibilities as a leader. Gibson said he tries to lead by action and helps bring the young guys along. He also has to make sure he keeps his emotions in check, because he admits to having a tiny anger problem.

“It’s nothing too crazy,” Gibson said, only somewhat assuringly. “When I feel like I’m not playing to my capability, I like to challenge myself to make the next play. The anger doesn’t carry off the field.”

This season, Gibson missed time after a collision with teammate Ifeadi Odenigbo.

“It’s tough, man,” Gibson said. “In the offseason, I focused on doing everything I could to stay healthy, doing extra rehab, extra conditioning. For something like a weird play to happen to me and to lose a couple games, it was hard at first.”

Fitzgerald agreed that the physical toll has added to the degree of difficulty for Gibson’s season.

“It’s been another hard year for him. He missed quite a bit of time,” Fitzgerald said. “He played really well about a week ago, probably his best week of the year. He’s done a really good job for us, both on the field and off the field. He’s really emerged as a leader. A month from now, two months from, he’s going to play a critical role in getting us back to a championship program.”

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