Playing defensive back is in Mark Gilbert’s blood… literally.
The Fayetteville (N.C.) Sanford cornerback is the cousin of New England Patriots star Darrelle Revis. Between the shared genes and the rigorous offseason training sessions with his All-Pro family member, Gilbert started to see shades of his cousin’s dominant play rub off on him.
“Honestly, it was my breakout season,” said Gilbert. “I was matched up on each team’s number one wide receiver and I don’t think any wide out had more than about two catches on me. I pretty much shut down each team’s main guy. I had a couple long kickoff returns and punt returns. I scored once, but mainly I shut down my side of the field.”
“I’m actually taller than (Revis) and longer. He obviously has me in size and speed right now (laughter). I’m 6-2, 165. I had an injury last season, but before the injury I ran a 4.54.”
College coaches are certainly beginning to take notice of Gilbert’s impressive blend of length and fluidity. To date he has picked up offers from Duke, Boston College, Old Dominion, Georgia Southern, NC State, Wake Forrest, Pitt, West Virginia and as of Tuesday, Michigan. Though still open to any and all suitors, the Tar Heel State star does have a few early favorites.
“NC State sticks out to me the most,” said Gilbert. “I’ve been up there a couple of times. I like the coaching staff and their team philosophy. Also Pitt. I’m from Pittsburgh and Pitt was all I knew growing up. That’s were Darrelle went to school. I went to all Darrelle’s games when he was in college. When Pitt offered that was pretty special. Growing up I thought that was the only college there was. And Michigan with it being my biggest offer right now in the Big Ten, that sticks out pretty good.”
That last part probably comes as music to the ears of a coaching staff that started to wonder if Gilbert had any interest in them whatsoever.
“What’s funny is that they actually told me that they’ve been trying to get in contact with me for about a week before I called them,” Gilbert stated. “I didn’t know that some of the coaches had followed me and messaged me on Twitter. I follow all the coaches back and then I got messages on Twitter from all of them at the same time. Coach Partridge told me to call. I called him and he said he don’t know if it’s harder to get in contact with me or the president.”
“I was actually really excited. Like I said, it being Big Ten football… that’s one of the higher levels. That’s one of the biggest stages. Not putting down the ACC because that’s also a great conference, but Big Ten is (big time).”
At the moment Gilbert has only has limited knowledge of Michigan, but what he does know has made a very strong impression.
“(I know about) their alumni and a couple players they’ve produced and their academics I know Ty Law went there, Charles Woodson. They’ve produced NFL players, especially corners, especially Jim Harbaugh the new coach coming in, used to coach the 49ers. You get to experience NFL coach coming out at the college level. I think that’s pretty big.”
Another feather in the Wolverines cap is Gilbert’s link to the city of Detroit.
“I was actually born in Detroit.” He said. “I moved when I was like four or five. I was born there but a majority of growing I lived in Pittsburgh.”
“We still have a lot of friends and family there.”
The chance to reconnect with family will be one of the added benefits of making his way to Ann Arbor for a visit. That was one of the prevalent topics in his initial discussion with Michigan’s coaching staff.
“I told them that right now being in the playoffs in basketball and school that traveling is kind of hard right now, especially that far,” Gilbert explained. “I told them that I would be up and that it will be a definite visit for me, but I haven’t got with them on exactly when. It will more than likely be in the summer. I want to get up there before I take an official visit. I want to get up there more than once.”
Gilbert plans to use those trips and numerous others to see how well his top contenders live up to his most important criteria.
“I’ll look at academics, (number) one,” he said. “Two would be somewhere you can get on the field soon. The coaching staff. How are the coaches outside of football? Can you go talk to them if you’re going through something or if you’re having hard times? Also, the locker room. Are these the guys that you want to be around for four years if you’re there for four years?
Gilbert isn’t in any rush to find the answers to those questions, but doesn’t plan to wait until the bitter end to do so either.
“Honestly I don’t know exactly when (a decision will come), but it will be before signing day,” he said. “I won’t go all the way down to the wire.”