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Posted on Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 2:26 p.m.

Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons opens up about last year's struggles, this year's turnaround

By Kyle Meinke

Thumbnail image for Gibbons_Brendan_2011.jpg

Brendan Gibbons

There aren't many people who know Brendan Gibbons' face.

After last year, though, plenty know his name — for reasons he'd like to forget.

Gibbons broke camp last year as the starting freshman kicker for the Michigan football team, but went 1-of-4 in his first two games — missing from 39, 40 and 43 yards — and was benched. He finished the season 1-for-5 and the Wolverines were last out of 120 teams in field-goal kicking.

On a trip last season to Olive Garden with roommate Taylor Lewan, Gibbons faced first-hand the fans' sentiment toward him.


Michigan sophomore Brendan Gibbons is 8-for-11 this season kicking field goals.

Melanie Maxwell |

"So what do you think of the kicker this year?" they asked their waitress.

Only problem? Without a winged helmet or No. 34 jersey, she had no idea who she was talking to.

"I mean, just make a kick!" she said to them. "What are you doing?”

"Well this is No. 34, this is Brendan Gibbons, he’s our kicker,’' Lewan told her with a wide smile. "She was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m so sorry, can I get you guys some free pasta or something?’"

"She didn’t get a big tip, I can say that," Lewan quipped.

The prank was harmless, but the criticism is telling. Gibbons was one of the most unpopular players on a team that went 7-6 and set program futility marks on defense. That anger was hard on Gibbons, a redshirt freshman who was just weeks into his first season.

"I had never really felt that before, you know?" Gibbons said. "Doing well in high school and coming here, I wasn’t ready for it. It was hard, especially at first."

It happened all over campus and, at first, really bothered him. But after some time, he "got used to it" — and, more significantly, used it as motivation to "get his head right."

"All those critical things stuck with Brendan, and he’s taken that to heart," Lewan said. "That stuff hurts, no one likes to be criticized."

That makes what Gibbons has done this year all the more impressive.

The sophomore is 8-for-11 on the season — doubling Michigan's four makes as a team last year — and his 72.7-percent clip is fifth in the Big Ten. It's been a remarkable turnaround for the West Palm Beach, Fla., native, and it's given him insight into what went wrong last year.

One reason? He just wasn't focused on football.

"My mind was off a little bit, wasn't right," he said. "Side distractions. Doing something stupid, maybe, instead of going to bed. That kind of thing."

Gibbons said, in a lot of ways, he simply wasn't prepared mentally for what was about to hit him last year. He wasn't ready for kicking in front of 110,000 people, nor the criticism that came with failing.


Come back to at noon Thursday for a live chat with Kyle Meinke. He'll recap the Wolverines' win at Illinois, discuss news that emerged this week and preview the game against Nebraska on Saturday.

His coaching didn't help.

"Yeah, you could say that," Gibbons said, when asked if he didn't feel supported or comfortable last year. "They’d kind of jump the gun (in criticisms). But you know, those coaches are still good coaches, and they recruited me here."

The coaching change, then, has been good for Gibbons. It's given him a fresh start and new perspective on his role. Coach Brady Hoke backing him from the start helped to give him a source of strength he didn't have last year.

"They instill a lot of confidence (in me)," Gibbons said. "They back you up, even if you miss some in practice. They tell you just to forget about it and move on to the next one. They won’t be quick to jump on you.

"I think it helps any kicker when you have a coach who backs you 100 percent because you have nothing to lose."

Getting off to a fast start this year helped. Gibbons missed three of his first four kicks last year and was benched. This year, he made four of his first five.

"Start making field goals, it’s like it becomes nothing to you," Gibbons said. "I didn't have that last year."

Gibbons' leg has never been the issue. He was an Army All-American in high school, when he hit 16-of-21 field-goal attempts, including 10-of-12 as a senior. Even last year, he had the leg. But, his head was not in the right place.

So, then, it's unsurprising his turnaround has been more of a mental, rather than physical, thing. In fact, mechanically, Gibbons isn't much different this year than he was last year, other than he is more consistent in his mechanics.

"Just the way he walks, talks and acts, he seems more confident," Lewan said. "He believes more in himself than last year. I think he had a rough time believing in himself last year.”

So did his coach, Rich Rodriguez, who benched Gibbons after the slow start. Overall, Michigan attempted just 14 field goals last year — making four — partly because it forwent attempting them in situations that typically would call for it.

This year, though, Gibbons answered those questions. Just two remain.

First, what is his range?

Gibbons' career long is 38 yards, and each of his misses have come from at least that distance. Hoke said freshman Matt Wile could also get kicks from deep, and that it would be an instinctual decision regarding who gets the call.

But Gibbons said his range has grown this year, and has confidence in himself out to about 55 yards.

The second unanswered question regarding Gibbons: Can he make a pressure kick?

Gibbons didn't even allow the question to finish being asked before he interjected: "I'll make it, I'll make it."

But you’ve never done it before. How can you be so confident?

"Gotta be. Be confident. If you’re not confident, you won’t make it."

So much confidence, you'd hardly recognize him.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 4:03 a.m.

I think too many people are making too much of the 'tip' given too the waitress in this article. I'm sure we've all told stories of hanging out with our buddies that we thought were funny. Of course you want to end those stories with some kind of punchline, and I think that was the case with this story. As college kids, they probably never leave much of a tip to begin with (I know I didn't...I barely had money to pay for the food!). So, don't overreact to the whole tip thing, I don't think it's quite so devious as some are making it out to be.

1st Down

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 9:11 p.m.

Gibbons looks like a young Val Kilmer in that pic above. for example: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Its great that Gibbons got his groove back. It helps when the head coach is not constantly tossing the kickers under the bus to the media.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 9:10 p.m.

They should have asked the waitress what she thought of the frequently-penalized left offensive tackle! Gibbons wasn't the only one who needed to improve his game this season. Fortunately, both of them have.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 8:51 p.m.

Army All-American in high school -but got to Ann Arbor and (by his own words) forgot about what it means to be a Michigan football player. Wonder what he'd be saying today if Rodriguez had kicked him off the team? Failing to get across what it means to be a Wolverine is on the coach as well - but the players are expected to &quot;get it&quot; - more in this place than anywhere else. He's a very lucky young man: to even be here with a scholarship of any kind. I think young Mr. Gibbons has a lot to do to pay Michigan back just for keeping him here. I certainly wish him luck in that: it would be a win both ways and probably pay Gibbons &quot;dividends in character building&quot; in his future. Go Blue!


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 8:27 p.m.

What about Wile, though? WHat role does he really have when we have a young kicker and punter? Is he going to waste away waiting for his opportunity?


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 8:13 p.m.

I'm glad things are coming together for BG, the abuse this kid received last year from the coaches and more so from fan was unheard of. We fans and posters sometimes forget that these are just kids to young men we're talking about, they need time as we did to grow into their own. Good job Brendan!!!


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 4:22 p.m.

So these guys set the waitress up, embarrased her, then gave her a smaller tip when she told the truth. Not so sure I'd call that prank &quot;harmless.&quot;

Jake C

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 1:49 p.m.

I have a feeling that was meant to be a joke.

Hot Sam

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 10:37 p.m.

Agreed A2..That's about as lame as it gets!


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 4:17 p.m.

He shouldn't criticize last years coaches. He was on his second year of a full ride scholarship. He admits he wasn't focused and doing &quot;other things&quot; rather than go to bed. Good job of coaching by Hoke, but they would bench him too if he kicked like last year. I feel sorry for the waitress. She said what everyone said last year. &quot;let me kick- I can't do any worse&quot;. Tip the lady.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 3:28 p.m.

My utmost admiration to Gibbons for turning things around. He was arguably the most hated player from last year's squad, and to come back from that kind of criticism and negativity really shows a lot of mental resilience. I'm still on the edge of my seat when we attempt PAT and FG, but now I'm cheering encouragement instead of groaning in frustration.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 2:41 p.m.

It certainly does make a difference when you are a member of a 'team' and supported and encouraged when stuggling as opposed to being made an outcast and scapegoat by the former staff. It takes an extraordinary athlete to put up with the public criticism by the WCIMFH and continue to stick with the program. Gibbons will continue to get better under the new staff.


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 2:55 a.m.

The most humiliating situation for a player is when your head coach publicly appeals for someone in the student body to try out as a FG kicker. The message from RR to Gibbons was &quot;you stink and aren't wanted on the team&quot;. When in reality, RR stunk and didn't know how to coach. let alone motivate a kicker. This young man is mature enough to give himself partial blame for his own kicking woes, and make corrections. Too bad the WCIMFH couldn't find fault in his own deficiencies....and correct them.


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 12:14 a.m.

Michfantex..what examples do you have for this public humiliation?


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 3:12 a.m.

If the HC is publicly humiliating you it doesn't matter how many others are critical.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 2:07 a.m.

How many others criticized Gibbons?


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 2:01 p.m.

I value kickers/punters more than the average football fan and am not very sympathetic when they aren't consistent. I admittedly still cringe everytime he walks on to the field, but 8-for-11 is vastly improved from his 1-for-5 last year, so he deserves more respect. I think it's that he has never made a field goal at Michigan beyond 40 yards. He has become a perfect 1.000 for anything under 30 yards (chip shots), but past that he's .580, and that's with only one attempt 40 yards or longer. He needs to channel his inner Garret Rivas, who, in his second season, was 8/11 (.860) between 30 and 40 yards and 3/6 .500 past the 40. And the waitress was just being honest. Maybe she, rather than offering free pasta, should have offered to go practice some 30+ yard kicks with him!


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 1:45 p.m.

Along with Gibbons, here is how we beat the Dead Pelinis: Our King, He wore the Royal Crown; Impatience ran him out of town. Brandon said: "I know the way!" Now yesteryear is here to stay. Smelly offense, but D's okay Means Lloyd Carr Bowl on New Year's Day. But to win The Crystal, one needs sizzle. With pro set now, our hopes do fizzle. We need you, King! Come back this week. Can thou turn the other cheek? Grab the headset, take the reins, And stop these awful, pro set pains! -Theo Switzer '11 We need to get that Buffalo Wild Wings dude to spill some coffee on Borges' grid Saturday so that DRob won't have to run his vaunted 3 and out offense. And since Hoke doesn't know (nor care about) offense then Denard can call his own plays and just zip zap zing all over the field. Presto, W!


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 2:06 a.m.

Theo, maybe in a few years Hoke will be lucky enough to face The King in the Rose Bowl. Can't say yet, but I would venture a guess it will be either Arizona or possibly UCLA...

1st Down

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 9:15 p.m.

your king was impatient with Brendan Gibbons constantly tossed him under the bus Gibbons just put his head down and prayed and never made a media fuss eventually your king was banned from the kingdom whence he had torn down and Brendon Gibbons came out to play again kicked the ball straight and turned a smile from a frown 1st Down '11


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 8:14 p.m.

Anything to get Our King back, Don. That's what we always say! Thanks for your support of The King over all these years.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 7:31 p.m.

Gotta say I rather like the poem. Don't care for the sentiment, but I have to give props for the composition. :-)