A Family Affair: Life Lessons

Dr. James Andrews and Drew GibbsDrew (center) and Trey Gibbs before surgery with Dr. James Andrews.

by Trey Gibbs, father of Soldotna HS football player Drew Gibbs

Its been two months since my son Drew tore his ACL in the first game of his senior year at Soldotna High School.  The football season ends on Saturday when his team, the Soldotna Stars, goes against their arch-rival the Kenai Central Kardinals for Alaska’s Medium School state championship.  Our school will be going for its 39th straight win and a fourth consecutive state title.

I’ve learned a great lesson during this difficult season.

Drew will be fully dressed in uniform and on the sidelines helping his team for the first time since his injury.  I couldn’t any prouder of my son for his strength during this tough season.  Every day this season has challenged him. He has overcome each and every day — and faced the next — with the strength of his heart, mind, spirit and body.  It was jarring when I realized that one of the challenges he had to contend with was me.

Under normal circumstances my compulsive nature should have bolstered my son.   It’s one of the traits we share. We usually enjoy making fun of each other’s compulsive behaviors.  However, this season wasn’t a normal circumstance.  My son lost his senior football season after many years of hard work and sacrifice.  I wanted to help him get through this tough time.  I vowed that I would do everything I could to make sure that he would come out of this stronger and on-top.

My compulsions took so many forms.  I sought out and got Drew to the best knee surgeon in the U.S. — Dr. James Andrews . We traveled across the country from Alaska to Florida to see him.  I have spent countless hours talking and communicating with college coaches to help protect my son’s football future — phone, email, text, internet.  I even learned how to use Twitter!

I encouraged Drew to document his rehab on paper and evaluate his progress.  I have pushed him to keep his grades up — he’s holding a strong 3.51 GPA.  Every conversation we had revolved around his college football future.  I was being the supportive, loving dad.  However, I found out I had made some big mistakes.

Related: A Family Affair blog archive

A couple of weeks ago, Drew came to me to talk.  I realized that my continuous frenzy of college planning was well intentioned, but unhealthy for Drew right now.  There is a time in everyone’s life where they just need love and space to sort through terrible pain and loss.  It had to be hard for him to come to me and tell me that I was pushing him too hard right now.  In all our time, he’s never had to tell me that before.

I had to tell myself,  he’s got more scholarship offers now than at the beginning of the season — and maybe more on the horizon.  I needed to step back and re-focus.

I realized that when you concentrate too hard on the future you can miss out on what’s really important today.  I had to remember that it’s more important that my son knows that football has nothing to do with why or how much I love him.  My son is a great person…with or without football.  He’s strong, smart, funny, loving, considerate, loyal and appreciative — what else could a father want or need from his son?

The only truly important thing about the future that Drew needs to know is that his father will always be there for him… no matter what.

Jeff Fisher’s Editor’s Note: Drew Gibbs and his father Trey Gibbs have agreed to write this blog — A Family Affair — for High School Football America throughout the 2015 season.  It will chronicle Drew’s journey back from his injury and his determination to become a college football player.

About the Author

Jeff Fisher
Jeff is an award-winning journalist and expert in the field of high school sports, underscored with his appearance on CNBC in 2010 to talk about the big business of high school football in America. Jeff turned to his passion for high school football into an entrepreneurial venture called High School Football America, a digital media company focused on producing original high school sports content for radio, television and the internet. Jeff is co-founder and editor-in-chief of High School Football America, which is a media partner with USA TODAY High School Sports.