Hank Gibbs in the hunt for starting QB spot in Laramie
LARAMIE -- The missed call was from a Laramie number.
Hank Gibbs was busy. He figured it had something to do with COVID-19 testing anyway and the fact he would be traveling home to Fayetteville, Arkansas soon. A return call was not exactly high on the freshman's list of priorities last spring, but he decided to just get it over with.
The man on the other line had an all-too familiar voice.
It was Craig Bohl.
"He said he thinks highly of me and he'd like to see me improve," Gibbs recalled, followed by a wide smile. "He said he wanted to put me on scholarship."
That call validated a dream.
Moving nearly 1,000 miles from home was warranted. It was worth the risk not signing with an FCS program out of high school. That day Oklahoma baseball scouts were scheduled to watch Gibbs pitch, only to be derailed by the pandemic, didn't seem like the missed opportunity it once did.
The fact his father, Chris Gibbs, played defensive end for the Pokes from 1984-88 made it all the more sweeter.
As for Wyoming's ninth-year head coach, there's no doubt, he sees something special in the signal caller.
"He looks like the NFL prototype and he's got a strong arm," Bohl said, referring to Gibbs' 6-foot-5, 237-pound build. "... You know, he's really smart. I think he's about a 4.0 (GPA) in school and he's also got a good football IQ. So, it's been fun to see his progression."
Despite snagging that coveted full-ride, Gibbs didn't see the field in 2021. He took over the role as the No. 3 quarterback behind Sean Chambers and Levi Williams. Those two combined to take every snap a season ago.
Those two are now gone.
The Cowboys' coaching staff put out a plea on social media this offseason. Essentially it read, "Quarterbacks wanted."
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Andrew Peasley answered the call, transferring from Utah State. So did Evan Svoboda. The Arizona product spent one season at Snow College. Even after all that movement -- not to mention the return of Jayden Clemons and Gavin Beerup -- Gibbs said he feels like this QB battle could come down to the wire.
By all accounts, Gibbs and Peasley might have an early lead.
"We got to compete and we got to make each other better," Gibbs said of Peasley, who has played in 18 games during his career in Logan, including nine last fall. "We've got to be there for the team. Anything beyond that, it's nothing personal or anything. We have to win games next year.
"Whoever's going to do that, I believe that coach Bohl and coach (Tim) Polasek is going to put the best person on the field to accomplish that."
Gibbs is quick to laugh and has an engaging personality. Bohl spoke about his Peyton Manning impression in practice last season. Gibbs bellowed his "Omaha! Omaha!" cadence right in the middle of the interview. He grew up with a Fathead of the Hall of Fame quarterback on his bedroom wall. There's worse guys out there to emulate.
It's clear the arm strength and intelligence is in place, if you ask the coaches, but can the kid play?
"He's very thorough and is processing things quickly," said Polasek, UW's second-year offensive coordinator and QB coach. "Out of all five guys in the room, Hank has the best handle (of the offense)."
Can the big man move around and make plays with his feet?
"He's more of a pocket guy," Polasek continued. "He's not limited as far as extending some plays and doing some things, especially with his improvement in the weight room this offseason. He's gotten faster, he's gotten more agile and is changing directions better."
Gibbs agreed, adding the skinny, lanky kid who showed up in Laramie in 2020 is now nearly 30 pounds heavier.
"Even this summer I'm going to get faster," he said. "I can run the ball. I'm going to put my head down and get those yards that we need."
This all seems like it was meant to be.
Bohl said he spotted Gibbs from the stands at a satellite camp in St. Louis. After a brief chat with his folks, he quickly discovered the UW connection.
That opened the dialogue. Gibbs' play on the field kept the lines of communication open.
As a senior at Fayetteville High School, he threw for more than 2,500 yards and connected on 29 touchdowns. His completion percentage hovered around 60%. He averaged more than 230 yards through the air per outing, including a career-best 336-yard performance against Springdale.
It's all still surreal for Gibbs.
He's wearing the same uniform his dad did. The team he watched growing up is now his own. He would often play with the Cowboys on video games. A certain No. 17 was under center then.
Ultimately, it just felt right. His grin proves it.
"It's a small world."