ST. PETERSBURG — Forty-seven Division I college football programs offered a scholarship to St. Petersburg Catholic High School player Reilly Gibbons.
The 6-foot-6, 296-pound All-American senior is one of the nation’s most highly touted recruits and has committed to the University of Miami.
But his prowess on the field as an offensive tackle is only part of the reason Reilly was one of only 90 elite athletes selected by the U.S. Marines to play in the third annual Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in Carson, Calif., Jan. 5.
The bowl game is intended to develop Marine Corps values. Players are chosen for their character, academic performance and leadership, a far cry from the perception of sports stars as flashy celebrities. Appear on a police blotter and you will not be invited.
“Players are selected on how well they’re doing in school,” Sgt. Shawn Coolman said. “We look for people that embody our core values of honor, courage and commitment. Those are the bedrock of the Marine Corps.”
Maj. Matthew Van Echo was unable to attend at the last minute, so Gibbons’ jersey was presented by Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Logan, Marine Corps Recruiting Command.
Being chosen by the Marines has special meaning for Reilly, whose grandfather served in the Corp. Many of his family members are making the trip to California for the game that will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
“It’s an amazing honor,” Reilly said. “It means a lot to me to be part of it.”
As a two-year team captain, Reilly provides guidance on and off the field for his teammates . He volunteers at a local law firm attending teen court through a program run by the St. Petersburg Bar Association and takes part in school food drives. He does that while maintaining a 3.85 grade point average and he plans to follow his mother into law school.
“He does the right thing,” St. Petersburg Catholic High Coach Steve Dudley said. “You don’t have to stay on him to do studying; you don’t have to stay on him to hit the weight room.”
Recruiters also were wowed by his willingness to give back, including coaching youth basketball.
The bulky-framed teenager who regularly leaves opposing pass rushers on the turf towers over the children, some of whom are pre-school age. But his gentle-giant demeanor slowly disarms the youths. Soon, he is just one of them, having fun.
“They have a game of trying to steal my towel away from me,” he said.