Former Skyhawk Joe Gibbs signs free agent contract with St. Louis Rams
By WPSD Sports
Story Updated: Jun 2, 2010 at 4:58 PM CDT
MARTIN, Tenn. – Joe Gibbs, the former University of Tennessee at Martin three-time All-American and two-time All-Ohio Valley Conference honoree signed a free agent contract with the National Football League’s St. Louis Rams Wednesday.
“Joe was a high school guy who signed with us four years ago,” said head coach Jason Simpson. “He grew bigger and stronger over the years and turned into one of the best FCS linemen in the country.”
Gibbs started 11 games at right tackle for the Skyhawks in 2009 and did not allow a sack all season. He played a key role in UT Martin’s offensive success in 2009, as the Skyhawks were third in the Ohio Valley Conference in rushing offense, second in total offense, second in scoring and first in passing offense.
Gibbs’ strong play earned him several national accolades. In addition to being an All-OVC first team selection, he was also named an Associated Press FCS All-American and was also the only OVC player to be named to the American Football Coaches Association FCS All-American squad. Before the season, he was named a second-team preseason All-American by the Consensus Draft Services following a second-team all-conference selection in 2008.
All in all, Gibbs started in 37 out of 40 games in his career, including 31 consecutive games on the offensive line to close out his career. The last two seasons, he graded out at 87 percent and didn’t allow a single sack in 23 starts.
“With Joe’s character and great work ethic, he will represent UT Martin well in the NFL,” said Simpson.
What makes Gibbs’ offensive line play such a remarkable feat is that he spent his first one-and-a-half seasons at UT Martin as a tight end. Once he made the switch, he immediately became one of the best players in the conference and helped out quarterback Cade Thompson break the all-time UT Martin record for passing yards, completion percentage and touchdown passes. He was also a key part of the success of running backs Brandyn Young (10th all-time leading rusher) and Miguel Barnes (13th), who were two of only 20 players to rush for over 1,000 yards in their careers.
The Brilliant, Ala. native will also always be remembered in UT Martin history for the 2006 season. The Skyhawks earned their first-ever OVC Championship and finished the season with a 9-3 record and a No. 12 national ranking, the highest the team had ever been ranked.
With the Rams, Gibbs will help block for the first pick in the 2010 NFL Draft in former Oklahoma University quarterback Sam Bradford. While St. Louis chose Indiana University’s Rodger Saffold with its second-round pick (33rd overall) in April, the team had a void in the offensive line when seven-year veteran Jacob Bell underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on the first day of Organized Team Activities on May 18.
Gibbs’ signing marks the first time a UT Martin player has struck a free agent deal with an NFL team since Sam Dudley (Seattle Seahawks) and Andre Langley (Arizona Cardinals) inked deals in 1988.
If Gibbs makes the Rams’ roster, he will be the first UT Martin player to appear on an NFL roster since Fred Thomas. Thomas was an All-OVC first teamer for the Skyhawks in 1995 and was the 47th overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. Thomas spent 12 seasons in the NFL (the last eight with the New Orleans Saints) before retiring in 2007.