Washington State University offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller saw the potential of Brandon Gibson when he arrived as a raw-boned athlete on the Pullman campus as a freshman.
Fast-forward four years, and Gibson has used old-fashioned hard work and maturity to develop his God-given talent to a level that allows him to play on Sundays for the St. Louis Rams.
Levenseller calls Gibson the most complete receiver he’s coached – that includes two other Washington State products in the pros in Jason Hill and Devard Darling.
“He definitely made me a better player, and a better route-runner,” Gibson said of his former coach. “He was an instrumental apart of it. He pushed me and challenged me to be the best player possible.”
Levenseller said one of the things that helps Gibson stand out is his work ethic.
“He sat in here going into his senior year and studied every corner in the league that was returning,” Levenseller said about Gibson “I’d kill for that right now.
“He wanted to play pro football, and he was going to do everything he possibly could to get there.”
Gibson is living his dream now.
In his rookie season, a rare midseason trade sent him from Philadelphia to St. Louis, where a rash of injuries at wide receiver provided the 22-year-old with a chance to start in his first season in the league.
The Roger High of Puyallup product gets his second start of the season against his hometown team, the Seattle Seahawks, on Sunday at St. Louis.
Gibson has 12 catches for 154 yards this season, and was targeted a whopping 17 times in the Rams’ 21-13 loss to Arizona last week.
But Gibson only came up with five catches for 61 yards.
A week earlier, Gibson finished with a game-high nine receptions for 93 yards in another close loss, this time a 28-23 setback to undefeated New Orleans.
First-year St. Louis head coach Steve Spagnuolo said he’s been impressed with Gibson’s competitiveness.
“You don’t see that in guys until you get them in those game situations, but that kind of came out,” Spagnuolo said. “That was (visible) when he got his first opportunity to play in the game. He’s got great hands. He’s done a nice job. We’re not going to tag anybody the second coming of Jerry Rice right now, but he’s a good football player and we’re glad we got him.”
Gibson was a sixth-round pick by Philadelphia in this year’s draft. He had returned for his senior season at Washington State, hoping to improve his draft stock.
But Gibson and the Cougars suffered through a 2-11 campaign, and Gibson’s draft status fell, although he did finish his senior season as Washington State’s career leader in receiving yards.
The Rams were one of 10 teams that sent scouts to attend Gibson’s pro day in Seattle, and they contacted him during the fifth round to let him know they were interested.
But the Rams never made a move, and the Eagles pulled the trigger, so Gibson was not surprised the Rams traded for him.
Gibson performed well in the preseason for Philadelphia, finishing as the team’s leading receiver with 12 catches for 123 yards and one touchdown. He made the Eagles’ active roster, but the team has a young, talented group at receiver and was thin at linebacker, so Philadelphia parted ways with Gibson and a fifth-round pick for veteran St. Louis veteran linebacker Will Witherspoon just before the trade deadline on Oct. 20th.
At 6-foot, 210 pounds, Gibson is not a burner, but he is a big, physical receiver who runs polished routes and has good ball skills.
“He has very good footwork,” Levenseller said about Gibson. “He’s really technically sound and he’s explosive. The knock on him was top-end speed, but he played very fast for me. He creates separation with his body, which allows him to run with the football after the catch.” Gibson said he’s working hard to live up to expectations bestowed upon him after the trade.
“When I found out I was going to St. Louis I felt like I should have an opportunity to play here, with my ability,” Gibson said. “My biggest thing is if I’m going to be depended on like that, then I need to come up with the ball.”
Gibson said he doesn’t have any added adrenaline playing the Seahawks. But he likely will see a familiar face lining up across from him in cornerback Marcus Trufant. The Tacoma native is considered one of the best players to come out of Pullman.
“I definitely have my respect for Marcus,” Gibson said. “He’ll always be valued as one of the best Washington State players ever. But when the ball is snapped, I’ve got to go. I can’t really think about stuff like that.”
Seahawks running back Julius Jones (bruised lung) practiced for the first time in almost two weeks after suffering a bruised lung in the first half of the Arizona game. Jones was a limited participant in practice, doing individual and team drill work as the Seahawks practiced inside Thursday. Jones said it was good to get back on the field, but doesn’t know if he’ll be ready to play Sunday. “Today was the first day I was able to be out there, so I’ll just talk to trainers and we’ll figure something out,” Jones said. “Obviously when you miss a week it kind of sets you back a little bit. But I’m in pretty tip-top condition, so I’m not worried about that.” ... Along with Jones, defensive tackles Red Bryant (knee) and Cory Redding (knee) were limited participants in practice. Center Chris Spencer (thumb), defensive tackle Craig Terrill (shoulder) and safety Deon Grant (wrist) were full participants.
Ryan Divish contributed to this report.
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437