Jayden Gibson was at it again Friday night. The West Orange junior receiver is starting to make a name for himself and the further the Warriors advance into the Class 8A state playoffs, the more attention he gets.
And it seems as though the more attention he gets, and the importance of each game grows, the better he performs.
Gibson, with his tall, lanky 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame, usually catches anything thrown in his vicinity and he did so again Friday, pulling in five receptions for 76 yards.
He is even drawing the attention of coaches who play against West Orange. One recent opposing coach said, “That No. 1 is the real deal. He’s gonna be a good one.”
Gibson waited his turn a bit at West Orange. His freshman season was spent behind the likes Darrell Harding Jr., a sophomore at Duke, and last year he was in under the shadow of J.C. Carlies, who is now at Missouri.
As a junior, Gibson is now West Orange’s go-to receiver. He has 29 catches for 681 yards and eight touchdowns. He averages 75 yards per game.
Entering the season, Gibson had one Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offer from Maryland. Now he has 10 offers, five of which came in the past 10 days, and expectations are that there are many more to come.
“I’m feeling really good, actually — ... having a new coaching staff and winning games and I’ve been playing really good,” Gibson said of the new West Orange coaching staff led by Mike Granato. “Being one of the area’s leaders in receiving and picking up offers in the middle of the season. You don’t hear of too many people getting offers in the middle of the high school season.
“But mostly the team is doing pretty good and our team morale is really good right now. With everything going on, like me getting three-star too, I’m happy but not satisfied, for sure. I’m just ready to keep working and keep winning games.”
Gibson knew he had star potential in his future, but he just needed to go out and prove it. This season, he’s done that.
“It feels great. I knew if I got the opportunity to get the ball in my hands, I would make plays and get touchdowns,” Gibson said. “I feel that I can actually do more than what I’m doing now. … I feel like I can do more for my teammates, and have a better outlook on myself, that sort of thing.
“I feel like this is just the beginning. I’m glad I’m starting to open people’s eyes.”
Of course, with the attention and the rankings, Gibson will be faced with not letting his newfound status get to him mentally.
“There are people out there who are still doing more than me, have more colleges looking at them and more offers,” Gibson said. “There’s definitely more I can do. I’ve got people telling me that, ‘This is good but you can be great, you can be extraordinary,’ so I keep drawing on that and I gotta keep that mindset and keep going forward..
“Offers are good, stars are good, but at the end of the day, though, I’m trying to win football games and bring valor back to West Orange and fix West Orange’s name and bring it make to where it was before I even got here.”
Interestingly, Gibson comes from Apopka, the same team the Warriors will face in the next round of the playoffs next Friday in Winter Garden.
“I came to West Orange because I remember when they had a name that people respected and last year we kind of got off track,” Gibson said. “With all of the stuff that went on off the field people started disrespecting us. And now we’re kind of getting that back, step by step.
“Going deep into the playoffs and making a run at state will help even more.”
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Chris Hays at email@example.com.
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