Mike Gibson remembers going into the offensive huddle in the second quarter of the Tampa Bay game in December and turning to Max Unger, Seattle’s center.
Gibson didn’t have a question. He made a statement.
“The first game was obviously pretty nerve wracking,” Gibson recalled.
It was Gibson’s first regular season game as an offensive lineman in the NFL and he was about to take his spot on the line of scrimmage after the team broke the huddle.
“I told Max Unger, ‘I just need to hit somebody,’ just to kind of get it out of the way,” he said. “Luckily, we got a really good play call on the first play, which allowed me to get the nerves out of the way. Once you get it out of the way, it’s just football. It’s fun.”
Gibson, a sixth-round pick by Philadelphia in 2008 who was on the Eagles’ practice squad to start this past year’s NFL regular season, was signed by Seattle in October and put on the team’s active roster. The Napa High School graduate played in two more games, splitting time vs. Green Bay and Tennessee.
He played in the second and fourth quarter against the Buccaneers and Packers, and went the second, third and fourth quarters against the Titans.
“We were having some issues across the line and I guess they just wanted to see if I could play,” Gibson said upon returning to Napa. “They decided to get me in there and get some play time, which was really nice.
“Getting to play at Lambeau Field, up to this point, it’s probably the highlight of my career right now. It was cold — everything you want Lambeau to be. It’s a nice stadium and the fans are loud. Being at Lambeau Field was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life and fortunately being able to play football, which is real cool. As a kid, that’s all you hear about is Lambeau Field.”
Gibson, a second-year guard who also played football at Solano Community College and UC Berkeley, signed a two-year contract with the Seahawks. He is listed second on the team’ depth chart at right guard.
He called the 2009 season a building block, a starting point.
“My best game was probably the Tennessee game, which was the last game,” he said. “Obviously, I showed some of the experience that I got from the previous two games. You learn so much. After you get in that first game, you almost feel like a veteran. It definitely paid off.”
Gibson was put on injured reserve with a shoulder injury as a rookie, but returned this year and played in each of the Eagles’ four preseason games, starting the finale against the New York Jets. He was All-Pacific-10 Conference Honorable Mention for Cal his senior year.
The 2009 season marked the first time that he has been on an active roster.
In two seasons at Cal, Gibson produced 78 knockdowns, 21 downfield blocks and 14 touchdown-resulting blocks. During his senior year, he was part of an offensive line that produced an average of 407.5 yards per game, allowing just 11 sacks on 443 pass plays.
He was the winner of the Ken Cotton Award as Cal’s most courageous player.
Gibson doesn’t return to Seattle until March, but in the meantime will be working closely with Jeff Page, a strength coach, who also teaches at Harvest Middle School.
Gibson ended the season healthy and plans to work on his flexibility, speed and strength, so that when he heads back to Seattle to meet with new head coach Pete Carroll and offensive line coach Alex Gibbs, he’s in shape and ready to make a good first impression. Seattle went 5-11 this past season.
“As rough of a season that we had up there, it was really nice to get some playing time and get experience heading into next year,” he said. “Especially with me being healthy and being with the offensive line through mini camps and organized team activities, it’s kind of nice to build a bond. That way you just jell as an offensive line. I know they’ve struggled the past few years. Hopefully I can stick and be there for a long time.”
Gibson was happy with his overall effort in the three games that he played.
“I didn’t get that many snaps against Green Bay, just due to the nature of the football game. But I tried to make the best of it,” he said.
Gibson — who was also a Second-Team All-State player, the Monticello Empire League’s Lineman of the Year and All-Metro at Napa High — knows there is improvement to be made with his overall game. It’s a challenge that he embraces, to get better in both run and pass blocking.
“I’ve got to improve everywhere,” he said. “You’ve got to learn every year that you play in the NFL. You’ve got to work on something new every year, and that’s what is so great about the game. There is always something to work on, there is always something to get better at.
“The ultimate goal is to stick somewhere and stay somewhere for a long time. I want to keep building on every little thing that I can.”
Winning the battle at the line, he said, is all about heart. It’s about who wants it more.
Making a team’s roster and fulfilling a role is about staying sharp, not losing focus.
“There’s always going to be somebody right behind you who’s just as hungry as you are, who wants to take your job,” said Gibson, who was All-Bay Valley Conference and an All-American at Solano. “You’ve got to be on your toes.”
Gibson said he is looking forward to playing for Carroll, the former USC coach, who led the Trojans to a 97-19 record — a mark that included two national championships and seven straight Pac-10 titles.
“It’s going to be great to learn from him and gain a lot of experience,” said Gibson. “Every bit of knowledge that you can take in is good knowledge.”