“With Mike, it’s just how tough he is,” said running back Justin Forsett, a teammate at the University of California and now with the Seattle Seahawks. “Mike is one of those guys who is going to do whatever it takes on the field, and do it with toughness.
“I’ve got nothing but good things to say about Mike Gibson.”
While Gibson appreciates the compliment, he also acknowledges that the real “tough guy” in the family is his wife, Jessi. After the Seahawks signed Gibson from the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad three weeks ago, it was Jessi who made the solo move back to the West Coast for the couple that started dating at Napa (Calif.) High School.
“She drove from Philadelphia – 3,000 miles in a 26-foot U-Haul,” Gibson said. “Now that’s tough. She’s a trooper. She loves me dearly.”
Gibson’s nomadic football life has been all about transitions – geographically as well as on the gridiron. From Napa High, where he was an all-state selection at guard and his league’s Lineman of the Year as a senior, Gibson went to Solano Community College, where he also played guard and earned JUCO All-America honors. Then he went to Cal, where he moved to left tackle midway through the 2006 season.
Drafted in the sixth round by the Eagles in 2008, he spent that rookie season on injured reserve after hurting a shoulder during the preseason. Gibson was released on the Eagles’ final cut in September and then signed to their practice squad.
“It’s not any different than what I’ve done before,” he said of being back at guard, and back on the West Coast. “When I went to Cal, I’d never played tackle before. Now, I’m back inside. It’s nothing new. It’s just football for me.”
With the rash of injuries on their O-line, the Seahawks swooped in to sign Gibson. Despite the fact that he has been inactive for his first two games, Gibson is viewed as more than a Band Aid to help the team get through practice.
“We targeted Mike coming out of college, we just weren’t able to get him,” president of football operation/general manager Tim Ruskell said. “And really, we targeted him because of his fit for this scheme. So when we had a situation where we had to being somebody in, he was the guy we wanted to get.
“He’s not here just to practice. We’d like to see him get some playing time at some point.”
Still, Gibson treats practice as more than just practice.
“The way I look at it, practice is game day for me,” he said. “That’s the approach I take. Just getting after people and trying to make others better by the way you’re practicing.”
Game day then becomes a learning experience. He sits next to offensive line coach Mike Solari on the sideline. He’s also next to No. 3 QB Mike Teel, who lets him know what the play is. He watches rookie right guard Max Unger once the ball is snapped because that’s the player he is backing up.
“Coming into a new offense, you try to pick up things,” Gibson said. “And Max is a great guy to watch because he’s had a lot of success in his first year.”
Gibson stepped into another familiar situation with the Seahawks, as the new guy on the team.
“To get respect, you’ve got to go out and earn it – especially when you’re with a new team,” he said. “So you’ve just got to get your nose into things and earn the respect of the other players. That’s what I’ve been doing since high school, and it’s worked for me since.”
But there also were some familiar faces to ease his latest transition. Three former Cal teammates are now teammates once again – third-year defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and rookie tight end Cameron Morrah as well as Forsett.
“It was really comforting coming into the locker room and seeing these guys you’ve played with,” Gibson said. “I was able to give some hugs and high-fives to some guys I haven’t seen in a long time.”
Mebane was used to going against Gibson in practice at Cal and is as glad to have him back.
“Gibson is a good player, man,” Mebane said. “He’s got good feet. He’s strong.
“I’m happy he’s here, because he makes me a better player. He gives you a different set, because he shoots his hands kind of like (former Seahawk) Mike Wahle. That gets you to use your hands to get his hands off you. He gives a great look, every week.”
Forsett can only second everything Mebane said, from the other side.
“Mike was always one of those tough guys that brought the intimidation factor to our offensive line,” Forsett said. “He’s a passionate guy, smart guy. He’s going to be a good lineman here.”
That definitely would work for Gibson, and his wife. Jessi was a softball player in high school and then at Georgia, before an injury ended her career. She will coach at UC Davis next year.
“So this is a big deal for both of us,” Gibson said. “The nature of the beast of the NFL, we’re hoping that we’re here for another year. And I think I will be.”