In February doctors were able to do Lake Travis quarterback Garrett Gilbert what opposing defenses were unable to do during his junior season on the gridiron – slow him down.
Gilbert had a dream season in 2007 by leading the school to a 15-1 record and a victory in the Class 4A, Division II state championship game over Highland Park. To put the icing on the cake, the 6-foot-4-inch gunslinger received one of the earliest scholarship offers ever handed out by Coach Mack Brown and the Texas Longhorn coaching staff and announced his commitment to Texas while the ink on the letters of intent from the 2008 signing class had not yet dried.
Not long after that, however, came the news that Gilbert would have to undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder and went under the knife in mid February.
After a long off-season of rehabilitation Gilbert recently started throwing again and seemed to be coming full circle this weekend at the 7 on 7 state championships in College Station, an event that Gilbert has participated in for three straight seasons.
"This is a great event, especially because we get to come out here and work on our timing," Gilbert said of the state championships. "This is really helping us get prepared for when the fun starts in August."
Gilbert had seen some action in local area 7 on 7 events and at the Lake Travis state qualifying tournament, but the Cavaliers qualified for state under the direction of sophomore-to-be Michael Brewer, the son of former Longhorn quarterback Robert Brewer. Gilbert, however, played the whole game in the Cavaliers' first game of the tournament against a tough Abilene High defense, led by the 2007 Class 5A AP Defensive Player of the Year Chris Williams. Gilbert nonetheless looked sharp and led the Cavaliers to 43-37 victory, showing no ill effects from the surgery despite the fact that this was one of his few glimpses of live action for the Scout.com five-star prospect since the surgery.
"I felt good out there," said the nation's No. 4 ranked quarterback according to Scout.com, who also noted that he is right on schedule with where he thought he would be following the surgery. "I made a couple of throws that I wouldn't normally make and there's no excuse for that. I've obviously got to get the comfort back and that stuff."
Though he was unable to throw during the spring, Gilbert was not exactly just sitting around and observing his teammates go through workouts. Gilbert looks to be in the best shape of his high school career after having gone through his rehabilitation process, having added some bulk and says he now weighs right at 200 pounds.
"I got to work on a lot of footwork which is great because that was something I needed a lot of work on," said Gilbert. "I did a lot of lifting and getting strength in my legs and getting faster were really key things for me."
When the fun does start in August for the reigning state champions, a surgically repaired shoulder (a shoulder that Gilbert still managed to set single season state records for passing completions and passing yards with) will not be the only new sight that the Lake Travis faithful will see on the field as the off-season also included a coaching change at the school. Jeff Dicus took his spread offense to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex when he accepted the head coaching job at Duncanville and the Cavaliers quickly tabbed Stephenville head coach Chad Morris to lead the program. Morris also runs the spread offense and has recently seen two of his quarterbacks head to the college ranks – 2008 Nebraska signee Kody Spano and former Texas quarterback Jevan Snead.
Despite the change in coaches, Gilbert is not expecting the Cavaliers offense to slow down from their breakneck pace of last season.
"Our coaches have done a great job of transitioning us into (the new offense)," said Gilbert, who threw for 4,826 yards and 52 touchdowns on 359-of-555 passing (64.7 completion percentage) last season, "and that has definitely made things a lot easier."
Before he heads to the 40 Acres where he will likely succeed Colt McCoy as the Longhorns starting quarterback (and in case there were any doubts Gilbert says he is 100 percent solidly committed to Texas), Gilbert will look to lead Lake Travis to yet another state championship and improve on his 23-4 record at Lake Travis.
"We've had a great off-season, our coaches haven't let our work ethic slip at all," said Gilbert. "It's really been a great off-season for us throughout spring ball."
If the off-season was good to the Cavaliers, a healthy Gilbert will make for another great year this fall.