"When you step on the field, are you going to feel tense and scared?" Gilbert said. "Or are you going to feel loose and like you're supposed to be there? That's how it felt today."
It was the first step in a long rebuilding process for Gilbert. After earning MVP honors in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl, he's been an inconsistent part of the Cowboys' secondary that failed to meet high expectations last season. Even head coach Mike Gundy has been critical of Gilbert, saying "Justin played very average last year. I think he would be the first to admit that."
But Gundy had to be impressed with his most veteran corner on Saturday. After failing to record a single interception last season, Gilbert grabbed two. The first, from Wes Lunt, he returned 64 yards to the 26 yard line. The second, from J.W. Walsh, was highlighted by a 44-yard return to the 25.
"I think for anyone, it's a great feeling to have," Gilbert said. "This would boost anyone's confidence up."
Gilbert's continued improvement should be based on two parts moving forward. One: a rededication to offseason workouts. Two: a full integration of first-year defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer's aggressive strategy. Saturday was a nice start to that improvement.
"Being a defensive player, you don't want to see many points getting put on the scoreboard, unless it's your team," Gilbert said. "I think we did a pretty good job of doing that today."