Mild-mannered and soft spoken are just a couple of ways to describe Thaddeus Gibson of Euclid High School when he's not on the football field. A polar opposite to the disruptive and downright nasty role that he portrays on the gridiron when the pads are on.
"It's natural. I just go. I don't know what it is but it's something that as soon as I put on that hard hat it's time to get it on," said Gibson who first started for Euclid as a sophomore at outside linebacker. "I'm a hard-hitting, head-bashing kind of guy with some pretty good speed."
Along with Ross Homan of Coldwater High School, Gibson is considered the cream of the crop at the linebacker position in the state of Ohio for the upcoming prep football season. Both linebackers were offered scholarships to Ohio State shortly after the ink was dry on the signatures of the recruits from the class of 2005.
Homan, on one hand, almost immediately gave a verbal commitment to Ohio State while Gibson, on the other hand, continues to entertain offers and phone calls from other coaches and universities all around the country.
"It's a nice feeling getting all of this attention. Coaches always coming in and talking to you and all of the mail and things like that," Gibson said. "It makes my mom real proud and me as well."
Recruiting is almost always on his mind. Through basketball season and now track, Gibson has been anticipating what the crush of the recruiting season might be like.
"I'm just trying to keep up with my weightlifting and basically just keeping my head straight and doing what I got to do," Gibson said. "I really don't know what to expect. I'll just continue to do what I do and whatever happens, happens."
Already Gibson has naturally assumed the leadership role of the football team. With so much expected of him this coming season, Gibson feels the need to lead his teammates by example.
"I know that I have to work even harder this year, I really do," he said. "I'm doing more than ever in the weight room, trying to work harder than the everyone and trying to get everybody out there. A lot of the dudes are talking about the season right now and I really like that a lot. And a few are coming out for the team that wasn't out and I talk to them about that a lot. I'm basically just trying to get everybody doing what they need to do."
After a strong season on the hardwood where he averaged 13 points and 11 rebounds a game, Gibson is in the midst of track season right now.
"We've got some guys out throwing shot putt and discuss from the football team as well," Gibson said. "Right now I just started to run the 100 and the 200 so I'm getting my speed up and trying to build a good relationship with the guys (from the football team) that are on the track team."
Gibson is mainly just a sprinter but he's learning something new on almost a daily basis. He's actually competing in track for the very first time ever this spring.
"This is my first year doing track, ever, so it's new but it's cool," he said. "I just found out that I wasn't running right. The track coach said that my form was a little shaky so I'm working on that right now, getting it where it needs to be. But it's a good experience though. He says it will really help me for the football and basketball seasons. So I look at it as a plus. I'm all for it."
Basketball, however, is truly Gibson's first love. He started as a sophomore on the varsity at Euclid and played some varsity as a freshman.
"Honestly before I even thought about football I was playing basketball," Gibson said. "When I was little my mom didn't really want me to play football because she thought I'd get hurt. So I was really focusing all of my attention on basketball.
"But my friend talked me into playing football in my ninth-grade year and I went out there and then I actually decided not to even play football in my sophomore year. But the coaches wanted me to come out and said that it would be my ticket, so I came out."
Gibson himself now recognizes that football is indeed his ticket.
"I think I really fell in love with the game, really," he said. "I liked it to watch it but when I'm out there on that field it's like I'm another man, honestly. The love that I got for the game is real and a lot of people say that I can really make it big so I'm going to stick with it."
Mike Rezzolla, the head coach at Euclid, thinks that Gibson has some really unique abilities.
"What sets him apart is his combination of the height, the speed and the strength," he said. "I've been here 21 years and he may be one of the more explosive players I've ever seen and we've sent some good ones away, many to Ohio State. When you watch him on film he just stands out.
"You could be somebody that goes to a football game and had never seen a game before and the first person you would notice would be number 90 on defense because his motor is just working at such a high level of speed and he can make plays all over the field."
Coincidentally he was initially given 90 and he's stuck with it, but the number couldn't be more fitting now according to Rezzolla.
"Years ago Javon Kearse came out of college and they called him the freak and the first time I, and some of the coaches, saw his explosive ability as well as the rangy body of his, the word freak came out," the coach said. "So it might be a coincidence that he wears 90 but when you saw a young Javon Kearse get up field and be that quick and explosive, that is the kind of kid that you're seeing with Thaddeus. So the number actually works out well for him."
Gibson will also play some at wide receiver on offense and return kickoffs this season.
"I played a little fullback and a little at receiver last year but I'm starting this year as a receiver," said the 6-3, 209-pound athlete. "Right now I really want to put on some more weight as well as keeping my speed too. My speed really makes it happen. I don't think that I can be blocked personally and I love the contact."
And he's still learning how to play the game. His upside potential is really unlimited.
"He's still a little on the raw side. He came out for football as a ninth-grader for the first time," Rezzolla said. "He thought basketball was his ticket but he soon came to realize that football was going to be his ticket and he has a passion for it now that matches that passion that he has for basketball. If he makes any kind of progress over the next two to three years like he's made his first two, then he can be scary."
And Gibson is at the point in his young career where he's making solid progress on all fronts now, be it athletically or academically or in particular.
"There was never a problem with the way that he works. In the weight room there are times when we have to kick him out. He'll go through a track workout and then come back and get his weight lifting in," Rezzolla said. "Now that he realizes what he has to do and what is expected of him, even with his academics, there's been a whole new Thaddeus Gibson in the way that he approaches what's a priority now for him.
"He was a great kid to begin with but now he's a focused great kid and I'm looking forward to what he can accomplish in the future."
Obviously there are a lot of schools that would be interested in having Gibson be a member of their team in the future. Ohio State, Michigan, Boston College, Purdue and West Virginia are just a few of his main suitors at this point.
"It's overwhelming to me. It really is," Gibson said. "But I'm proud of it though. It's a great time for me right now and it's very exciting."
Of course there's a good chance that in the end it will come down to a battle between two schools to win his services.
"I'm really looking at Ohio State and Michigan," said Gibson who has no specific time frame planned. "I want to stay close to home so that my family can come and see me play. I'm going to take some visits and see what's out there."
More than anything, Gibson thinks it's an honor to be in the position that he's in right now.
"Most definitely, it's great," he said. "I can't explain it. It's overwhelming."
Gibson takes the ACT on June 11 for the first time and he's working hard to improve his current GPA.