Football: Senior Gibson stands out as team leader, dynamic player


Daniel Tian/Daily Senior Staffer

Deonte Gibson runs upfield. The senior defensive end has been a key contributor on and off the field for Northwestern with his production and leadership.

Stephanie Kelly, Managing Editor


In his senior season, defensive end Deonte Gibson has made his mark.

Gibson celebrated a season-best performance against Wisconsin on Saturday, earning Big Ten co-defensive Player of the Week honors in the second-to-last regular-season game he will play as a Wildcat. The 6-foot-3-inch, 265-pound Gibson said he’s adapted to Big Ten play throughout the years, understanding more what offenses are trying to do to him rather than the alternative.

“Now I’m understanding what it takes to win outside of being physical,” he said.

At Northwestern, Gibson has had quite a career. Just this year, he has been a captain on the team and a member of the Leadership Council, while also leading the defense in sacks and coming in a close third in tackles for loss.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald has named the Lakewood, Ohio, native the Defensive Player of the Week several times. In Monday’s press conference, Fitzgerald said it has been an honor and a privilege to coach Gibson these past four years.

“He’s played relentless all year,” Fitzgerald said. “His motor is running at a high, high level. … He’s been just absolutely lights out.”

This year, Gibson has been essential to a stacked defensive line and a defense that has headed a 9-2 season.

“In your last year, you want to go out with your best foot forward,” Gibson said. “We’ve put ourselves in great position for me to have a smile when I look back 20 years from now.”

Currently, Gibson is in graduate school, pursuing an Integrated Marketing Communications degree and thinking of going into sports marketing. But right now, football remains on his mind.

“I’m going to pursue football as long as I can,” he said. “As long as someone wants me to play.”

Serving as a leader for the team has allowed Gibson to watch his teammates’ progress from a unique vantage point. During their freshman year, players such as seniors Geoff Mogus, Cameron Dickerson and C.J. Robbins were a shell of who they are today, he said.

Along with his teammates, Gibson has grown up, too. His college experiences have range: On the field, Gibson has matured into a captain’s position, while off the field he takes care of his mixed terrier puppy. After buying her last year with Robbins and former running back Treyvon Green, Gibson now plays with her in his free time and calls her “one of the family.”

Gibson’s leadership role on the team developed from his time playing in high school, talking to coaches and understanding when to step up and lead. Every day he makes sure to live and act by example, he said.

“You have to make sure you’re on par because, if you’re not, then you’re a hypocrite,” he said.

This role has been critical to the knockout season the defense has had, said Marty Long, the defensive line coach.

“It’s like having another coach out there,” he said.

Looking back at his time at NU, Gibson is happy with the decision he made as a recruit to come to Evanston, he said. NU was one of the only teams to be completely honest with him, he said, and he believes each decision made on his behalf kept his best interests in mind.

“Some things are harsh,” he said. “You hear it and are like, ‘I don’t know if I agree with that,’ but that’s just you being personal. When you look at it objectively, they were correct, and in the end I think they made the best decisions for me.”

And, after four years, his favorite moment?

“I don’t know,” he said. “I want to see how the season ends.”

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Twitter: @StephanieKellyM