Former Panthers coach reaches NFL heights

Monty Gibson spent five years in Fort Stockton

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Nov. 25, 1982 was a special day for Monty Gibson. It was Thanksgiving Day and at age 11, his father, grandfather and uncle took him Dallas for his first-ever NFL game. Gibson was a Cowboys fan – not uncommon for a child growing up in San Angelo, Texas.

“Sunday would stop when Cowboys were playing,” said Gibson, who spent five years working with the Fort Stockton ISD. “We left San Angelo early that morning. It was cold driving home that night. I still have program. The Cowboys won (31-14).”

What neither he, nor the Cleveland Browns, knew back in 1982 was that Gibson would join the NFL team as a strength and conditioning assistant in 2018.

Gibson went on to become a teacher and coach – including five years spent in Fort Stockton.

His time in Fort Stockton from 1994 to 1999 was pivotal to his career path.

“We thought our plan was to be here a couple of years,” Gibson said of he and his wife, Leah. “We were going to work and then head back to A&M so I could earn my master's in environmental engineering.

“We taught science classes (at the intermediate school) right across the hall from each other in 1994,” Gibson said. “Later, she went to Alamo (Elementary School) and I went up to the high school.

During the moves, something happened that changed Gibson's career goal.

“I had a group of athletes that started with me in seventh grade, and I stayed with them every year,” he said. “It was a great set up.”

Through teaching and coaching football, track, basketball, powerlifting, and even swimming, Gibson came to realize where his passions rested.

“Coaching is very similar to teaching in that you want to see someone succeed,” Gibson said. “I fell in love with coaching. I thought about the coaches who had an impact on me. … I was also able to go to different coaching clinics.”

After 1999, Gibson decided to return to Texas A&M to earn a master's degree in physiology. He said it was hard to leave the students he had been working with since seventh grade.

“When we left, I'd just finished their junior year,” he said. “It was tough to let that group go.”

Gibson spent two years as a volunteer strength and conditioning coach at Texas A&M, before gaining a paid position as a graduate assistant. In 2003, he become one of the school's sports performance coaches. It was a role he held for 15 years.

The work at Texas A&M was an eye-opener as the facility catered to more than 800 athletes at the school – from football to track.

But he also found that be it high school or college, the core mission remained the same.

“Coaching is coaching – you try to get best out of athletes,” he said. “You've always have elite athletes. In college, you have more high-caliber athletes – and a lot more of them. It can be more advanced, so you have to keep up with it as a coach. You have to improve.”

Gibson started out working with athletes from basketball, swimming, diving, tennis and track. In 2012, strength coach Larry Jackson brought Gibson over to the football team.

They worked together for five years until Jackson joined the Cleveland Browns. It was the start of a relationship that led Gibson to the NFL.

“Once we got let go at A&M (in 2018), he (Jackson) called me up to work with specials snappers, kickers, and punters. It's an opportunity to roll with what I never would've predicted,” he said.

The facilities in Cleveland are smaller than those at Texas A&M because of sheer number. Whereas Texas A&M had to work with 800 student-athletes, the Browns have a 53-player active roster and five more on the practice squad. Cleveland's weight room was recently rated among the best in the NFL.

Another difference is that this is the job for NFL players.

“At Texas A&M, I would start setting up at 4:30 because the students where getting out of class,” Gibson said. “With the Browns, I'm heading to my car at 4:30. It is more of an 8 to 5 job here.”

In addition to working with players at the team's practice facility, Gibson also travels with the team for game day.

“My big roles are pre-game prep – getting these guys firing in all cylinders,” Gibson said. “Stretches, sprints, help with mobility, especially after traveling. Our job is to keep things going on the sideline and not let players get tight during the game. We need to keep them ready to play play ball.

“Once the game starts, I go into football mode. I'm a fan with really good seats.”

Gibson said that the strength and conditioning coaches across the NFL often share ideas and even secrets – something that is different from the close-to-the-vest head coach and coordinator circles.

A challenge is getting used to turnover of players in the NFL – not just from season to season, but even free-agent signings and player cuts week-to-week.

“You have this limited time to help them,” Gibson said. “Every professional has a finite number of years to play. The ability to get to know athletes is ramped up. Day-in, day-out, you try to get to know them.

“Just when you've struck up a good relationship, they are telling you 'thanks' on the way out.”

While a lot of the job has the same approach and goals as Fort Stockton High School and Texas A&M, Gibson said being in the NFL really hit him the first time he was on the stadium field for the national anthem and military plane flyover.

“It was quite a blessing,” he said.

Why Gibson said he is really enjoying his time in the NFL, he says he sincerely believes that he will return to coach at the high school level again.

“I had so much fun at Fort Stockton,” Gibson said. “At some point, I'm going to coach at high school again. It's absolutely a blast. The impact you have teaching them and setting them for success in life is a powerful impact.”

Gibson will sit tight awaiting word on any possible changes to his employment as the Browns fired head coach Freddie Kitchens hours after their 33-23 Dec. 29 loss to Cincinnati, which marked Kitchens' lone season at the helm.

The time last week hired former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski as head coach. 

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