Assistant coach Gibbs gives U character

David La

It seems Minnesota’s defensive coordinator David Gibbs would rather be anywhere than in front of a microphone.
He fidgets and sways as if he envisions himself in his underwear instead of his audience.
But Gibbs is by no means shy about speaking his mind.
“If we were shitty you wouldn’t want to talk to me,” Gibbs said of the team’s 4-0 start. “It’s just like the Broncos, they’re the two-time defending world champions, but they’re 0-4. Think anybody thinks they’re very good coaches? Nope.”
Forgive Gibbs if he is somewhat partial to at least one member of Denver’s staff. Offensive line coach Alex Gibbs is David’s father, but dad did not encourage his son to follow in his footsteps.
“My father always told me, ‘Don’t go into coaching,'” David said.
Even a good kid has to rebel. Following his playing days at Colorado — which included a national championship in 1990 — Gibbs went into coaching as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma (1991-92), Colorado (93-94) and moved up to defensive backs coach while he was with Kansas (95-96).
Current Gophers coach Glen Mason, who at that time was the head coach at Kansas, was the one who promoted Gibbs to defensive backs coach in 1995.
When Mason took the job at Minnesota in 1997, he again promoted Gibbs, this time to defensive coordinator. The 29-year-old Gibbs was the youngest assistant coach in NCAA Division I-A football.
“I owe a lot to him,” Gibbs said of Mason. “There’s not too many head coaches in the country that would’ve done what he did. I’m glad we’re being successful on defense; I’m glad I’m able to pay him back a little for him having a little confidence in me.”
Gibbs said Mason’s inspiring confidence was the first step in his plan to better the woeful Minnesota defense he inherited. The unit was coming off a dismal 1996 season when they finished last in the Big Ten in passing, rushing and total defense. They were also 10th in scoring defense.
“The kids here were just so beat down and had been so bad on defense for so long,” Gibbs said. “But anybody who knows me knows I can build your confidence. I can motivate you to get you to believe in yourself; I can do those things.”
Gibbs went about pushing buttons, and his defense went about not getting pushed around. The final defensive statistics show that the 1997 version improved in every way, jumping to a fifth-place total defense ranking.
At 31, the animated Gibbs shows all the exuberance of a relatively young coach.
“He’s always out there running along side of us,” tackle Dyron Russ said, “playing little games to keep us motivated. The flip-side of that, for being a very young coach, he knows a lot, he’s very knowledgeable about the game.”
Gibbs said he “went to meetings when (he) didn’t have to go” during his playing days at Colorado to better prepare himself for future coaching jobs. He also said the team’s success at Colorado has paid other dividends.
“To have been there and to know what it takes to get there, I think was a great lesson for me,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs’ current players agree. Strong safety Tyrone Carter: “He was one of us at one time and we can relate to him.”
Defensive end Jon Michals: “He’s our dad of the defense.”
Linebacker Sean Hoffman: “His energy is contagious, it’s like having another player out there on the field with us.”
Cornerback Jimmy Wyrick: “He brings a championship type of attitude. He’s been around it, he’s seen it and he’s played on it.”
All the player praise and bottom-line defensive improvement has not gone unnoticed by other high-profile programs.
In recent years, Gibbs’ name has been among those mentioned to fill coordinator positions at schools like Auburn, Oklahoma, Washington and Colorado.
In contrast to his wavering approach on public speaking, Gibbs says he’s grounded at Minnesota.
“I’m happy with what I’m doing,” Gibbs said. “I’ve got a great job. My head coach lets me coach my guys. I’m a pain in the ass and he let’s me do my thing.”

David La Vaque covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]