Greg Gibby hasn’t stepped on the floor or field in a Roseburg High uniform in his four years at the school, but the senior may have been the most influential member of both the football and boys basketball programs the school has had.
“What a stud,” RHS football coach Dave Heuberger said. “Right now we’re watching him, he’s running out there, showing energy. Every day before practice he walks in and says, ‘Coach, what do you need?’
“The kids love the hell out of him. That’s a positive as a coach to see, the way the players embrace Gibby and the way Gibby embraces us. He’s a dude.”
Last Friday, Heuberger greeted Gibby at the 30-yard line at Finlay Field and gave him a heartfelt hug. It was senior night and Roseburg honored its four-year team manager right along with the other seniors that have brought the program back to the brink of playoff football.
“The Big G, he’s like a brother to all of us,” senior Carson Ellis said. “Anything we want or need, during games, practice or time out, he’s always there for us. He’s been here four years now, he’s been by everybody’s side. He’s just a great guy and teammate to have around.”
When the team goes through warmups, Gibby runs, exercises and stretches with the players. Only when he needs to fetch something from the locker room is he not beside the players.
Gibby runs with a stiff-knee motion and sometimes he gets off time with the rest of the team while going through jumping jacks or other calisthenics. He’ll pause when it happens, then join again in better time. No one laughs. No one mentions that he has Asperger Syndrome. Everyone appreciates Gibby’s dedication and effort.
“I’ve known him for four years and he’s fantastic,” RHS trainer Julie Dever said. “He really is the heart of the team. He’s the first one to tell them great job and he’s the first one to try to get them fired up.
“He considers the boys his family and it shows in everything he does.”
Several members of the senior class have known Gibby long before Roseburg High. Samie Bergmann, a three-sport athlete and softball standout at RHS, is closer than most to Gibby; she’s a distant cousin on her mother’s side.
“He’s, like, always positive,” Bergmann said. “He’s never said anything negative. To everyone he’s always positive and always asking people how their day is.”
When Gibby is around, it’s all but impossible to be in a bad mood.
“If you’re upset and he comes up to you, you’re not going to be upset anymore,” senior Collin Warmouth said. “He’s always smiling.”
Gibby wasn’t convinced at first that he was related to Bergmann when they were students together at Winchester Elementary.
“I told him we were cousins because my parents told me we were, and he said we weren’t and he would run away from me at recess times,” Bergmann said. “Then his mom told him we were, and he wound up apologizing.
“His family is super great, too. They’re always at every game he’s at and they’re really positive on him and everything he does. He reflects the personality traits of his whole family.”
Gibby takes his managerial duties seriously. He will apologize if he’s even a bit slow getting water or a ball to right place at the right time.
“He’s here every day and is always enthusiastic, even when maybe he shouldn’t be,” said Ellis, who has experience with Gibby in both football and basketball. “He’s always there to pick everyone up and is just a great teammate.”
Warmouth, a quarterback, safety, punter and two-time Southwest Conference honoree in basketball as a guard, has been around Gibby a lot.
“He means a lot to us — like Carson said, he’s literally the happiest, funniest kid around. He’s always happy,” Warmouth said. “The score might not be too great in our favor and he’s still cheering us on, telling us we’re doing great. He’s great to have around. He’s awesome.”
“He sounds like someone every school should have, but I don’t think they do.”
Gibby shows up on the first day of practice — and he’s often one of the last people to leave when practice ends.
Need to find a coach or a player? Gibby immediately sets off to find them. A handshake or a fist bump is often his thanks.
“We’ve had some great managers over the years, but Gibby brings a whole new dimension that a lot of people don’t,” RHS basketball coach Mike Pardon said. “He’s one of those guys that the kids love. It’s a great relationship for both parties. Greg loves being around the players and the players love being around him.”
And while he’s a senior, Heuberger is prepared to welcome Gibby back to the football team next fall as well.
“He’s found a spot where he really belongs and everyone has welcomed him in with open arms,” RHS athletic director Russ Bolin said. “He’s really found his niche and that’s what we want for every student, to find their niche.”
Gibby hasn’t seen a lot of wins in his time as team manager — the football team is 8-27 over the past four years; the basketball team 25-46 with his senior year still to come — but he’s never stopped believing in the orange and black.
Gibby has seen improvement, though, as Roseburg has missed the football playoffs each of the last two years by the narrowest of margins. Heuberger took over as head coach three years ago and has been rebuilding the program from the youth level up while remaining loyal to the handful of seniors that remain each year.
“I have a favorite story (of Gibby),” Heuberger said. “We were going out to play North Salem my first year and a couple kids had been benched. We’re 0-and-8 and we’re walking out for that last game and Gibby says to me, ‘It was nice knowing you coach.’ I look at Gibby and say ‘is there something I should know?’ And we both wound up laughing.
“Gibby gives our kids a great perspective of life and attitude. He can be a part of our program as long as he wants. It might (have been) senior night for him, but he’s got a spot on our staff as long as he’s interested.”