Editor's note: This story is featured in the Daily Citizen-News' weekly high school football Touchdown! section. Grab an issue in papers on Fridays during football season, or stop by our office for a copy.
On paper, Dalton’s High School senior running back Jahmyr Gibbs is impressive. For those who have seen Gibbs in person, however, there’s just not that many things to say except for impressive.
Halfway through the Catamounts’ season, Gibbs is leading the state in rushing with 1,364 yards and 24 touchdowns. He’s added another score on a 97-yard kickoff return in which he broke multiple tackles on his way to the end zone.
The speedy and shifty back has scholarship offers from 25 colleges all vying for him to eventually wear their jersey and hopefully transfer his success to the college level. While Gibbs has been verbally committed to Georgia Tech since this past May, offers have kept coming as recently as Wednesday when he announced via his Twitter page he received an offer from Ole Miss.
The Rebels’ offer is the seventh from the Southeastern Conference, bringing up his count to half of the 14 schools including Florida, LSU, Mississippi State and Texas A&M. Gibbs has at least one offer from each of the remaining four Power Five conferences with the most — eight — from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Dalton (4-1, 2-1 in Region 6-6A) dropped its first game of the season last week when Gibbs was limited to just one touchdown against Harrison. He still rushed for 215 yards and got the ball nearly 40 times on the night, something that didn’t surprise Atlanta Fox 5 sports reporter Justin Felder.
“Tough night for (Dalton) against Harrison,” Felder wrote in a tweet last Friday. “But Gibbs was hard to stop even when everyone in the building knew he was getting the ball.”
Felder said he was only at the game for two quarters, but that was all he needed to see how good Gibbs really is.
“I walked away most impressed with Jahmyr's patience on run plays," he said. "He seems to have an instinct for letting the action develop in front of him, then accelerating at just the right moment. When (Fox 5) posted a highlight on social media, plenty of Georgia Tech fans lit up with how excited they are to have him join the Jackets."
In fact, it’s not hard for most people to see Gibbs’ talent when he’s on the field. Thinking back to the beginning of last season, former Daily Citizen-News sports reporter Patrick O’Shea, who saw Gibbs play against Creekview a few weeks ago, was shocked when he didn’t have any offers to beginning his junior campaign.
“After I saw Jahmyr play two games where he was clearly the best player on the field, I knew something was up,” said O’Shea, now the sports editor at The Cherokee Tribune. “At the time he was unranked and not on any recruiting services, and I honestly couldn’t believe it. Since then he’s kind of blown up, and deservedly so. He’s one of the best high school running backs I’ve ever seen, and honestly he’s better than his three-star ranking in my opinion.”
Gibbs, who is rated a three-star prospect by 247sports.com, got his first offer just a few days after the Catamounts opened their season last year with a win over Ringgold. It was from Austin Peay State University, an FCS school in Clarksville, Tennessee.
Since then, the recruiting process has hardly slowed down for Gibbs. He said while the season seems like it is going by quickly, he has stopped to notice when there are special guests there to see him. Against Creekview, Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins and running backs coach Tashard Choice came to check out their commitment, arriving in a helicopter. Last week against Harrison, a Florida coach was in attendance.
“It’s just cool,” Gibbs said. “It gets you a little bit more worked up.”
Gibbs has certainly earned the respect of area coaches, too. Against Northwest Whitfield on Aug. 30, Gibbs ran for four touchdowns and ended the night with 183 yards rushing on 17 carries in Dalton's win over its county rival.
Northwest Whitfield coach Josh Robinson has seen Gibbs' growth over the past four years.
"When he showed up on film as a freshman, I thought, 'Well, this kid's going to be really good,'" Robinson said. "You never know how kids are going to develop. In 2018, he was a good player against us. But, the weight that he's gained has helped him tremendously to become a great player.
“The biggest thing I would say is his ability to change directions at top end speed. That's a really rare feat for a human being to be able to do that."
Robinson described Gibbs simply as "a very special player," and said he is the most highly-recruited north Georgia player since former Ridgeland star Von Bell in 2012, who played at Ohio State before being drafted by the NFL's New Orleans Saints.
"I thought about this before we played them because I saw him on film," Robinson said. "I've coached for 17 years, probably around 190 to 200 games between playoffs, preseason games, scrimmages, and I would be hard-pressed to name a running back that was better than him. He's just ultra, ultra-talented.
“His ability to do the things I mentioned is a rare feat, especially for a north Georgia kid who's not grown up playing big city kids where he's used to having to be athletic and make those moves that he does."
Dalton coach Matt Land agreed with the comparison between Gibbs and Bell, and said he’s seen the culture of recruitment change around athletes from schools north of the metro-Atlanta area.
“I think there is a prejudice in north Georgia particularly,” Land said. “I think there is a stigma that good and fast players only come from metro and south. But, then I look at guys like Von Bell from Ridgeland and Nick Chubb (who played running back at Georgia and now plays for the Cleveland Browns) from Cedartown and that’s about as north as you can get. Those are two of the fastest to ever play in high school.
“I certainly put Jahmyr in that category. I think he is worthy at the high school-level, though he hasn’t written his college book yet like those other guys. I think those are great names to be in the book with, and I think the stigma has really been broken down in the last 10 years. The talent has found its way up here.”
Land said Gibbs has improved in just about every aspect of his technical game, including speed and power.
The most impressive thing, Land said, has always been Gibbs' work ethic.
“I’m just so proud of him because it would have been easy for him to say ‘Wow, I had a good year last year, and I can probably have another good year this year,’” Land said. “It’s almost like he wiped the slate clean and asked himself what really good would look like.”
The process isn’t over yet, with five more regular-season games for Dalton to play. It all starts again tonight when the Catamounts host River Ridge (3-3, 1-2 in Region 6-6A) looking to bounce back from last week’s loss.
Gibbs may still receive more scholarship offers before the season is over, still missing those from the most elite of college football programs such as Alabama and Clemson. Multiple outlets have reported Gibbs’ ongoing talks with Georgia, who has in the past looked at him as a possible slot receiver. He was spotted on the sidelines of the Bulldogs’ game against Murray State on Sept. 7, but as of now, has no offer.
Until Gibbs officially signs with whichever school he chooses as his next step, onlookers will just have to be satisfied with the special touch he brings to the field.
“As far as impressive, you are standing there and watching him just make people miss,” said Daily Citizen-News photographer Matt Hamilton, who has taken Gibbs’ picture during multiple games throughout his Dalton career. “I sometimes realize I'm watching him run instead of taking pictures. Like one time I saw he dove for the pylon and I realize I should have been snapping.
“I just want to see it happen, though. It’s almost like a magic trick.”
Gibbs has established goals for himself, too, but all while keeping that humble demeanor in which many know him by.
“I want to win,” he said. “I really don't like losing.”
As far as more numerical goals, he doesn’t want to wish for too much.
“I am trying to get to 2,500 yards and 40 touchdowns,” Gibbs said. “No wait, 35 touchdowns — 40 is a lot.”
Daily Citizens-News managing editor Jamie Jones contributed to this report.
Gibbs' offers by date released on his Twitter page
Aug. 21, 2018 — Austin Peay; Ohio Valley
Nov. 30, 2018 — Iowa State; Big 12
Dec. 7, 2018 — NC State; ACC
Dec. 30, 2018 — UNC Charlotte; Conference USA
Jan. 5, 2019 — Wake Forest; ACC
Jan. 17, 2019 — Georgia Southern; Sun Belt
Jan. 24, 2019 — Coastal Carolina; Sun Belt
Jan. 25, 2019 — Louisville; ACC
Jan. 30, 2019 — Troy; Sun Belt
Feb. 5, 2019 — Texas A&M; SEC
Feb. 6, 2019 — Michigan; Big Ten
Feb. 15, 2019 — Georgia Tech; ACC
Feb. 15, 2019 — Virginia Tech; ACC
Feb. 18, 2019 — South Carolina; SEC
Feb. 20, 2019 — Missouri; SEC
Feb. 22, 2019 — North Carolina; ACC
Feb. 24, 2019 — Mississippi State; SEC
Feb. 27, 2019 — Syracuse; ACC
March 1, 2019 — Nebraska; Big Ten
March 5, 2019 — Louisiana State; SEC
March 6, 2019 — Purdue; Big Ten
May 25, 2019 — Committed to Georgia Tech
Aug. 22, 2019 — Southern Cal; Pac-12
Sept. 5, 2019 — Ohio State; Big Ten
Sept. 10, 2019 — Florida; SEC
Oct. 2, 2019 — Mississippi; SEC
TONIGHT'S OTHER GAMES
Christian Heritage (4-0, 1-0 in Region 6-A) at Darlington (5-0, 2-0 in Region 6-A), 7:30 p.m.
Christian Heritage returns to region play tonight at Darlington as it is undefeated coming off a bye week.
The Lions won their most recent game on Sept. 20 in their region-opener to Mount Zion, 42-0. Sophomore quarterback Christian Thomas had just one incompletion and scored in the air twice on one long touchdown each to Evan Lester and Gage Leonard. Thomas, Leonard and Ethan Smith all scored once each on the ground. Senior kicker Joe Dixon was 6-for-6 on extra points as the Lions never punted in the shutout.
Darlington is also undefeated heading into tonight's game after defeating Mount Zion last week, 38-0.
Last meeting: Darlington won in 2018, 24-21.
Coahulla Creek (1-3, 0-2 in Region 6-3A) at Haralson County (4-0, 2-0 in Region 6-3A), 7:30 p.m.
Haralson County is looking to stay undefeated as it hosts Coahulla Creek for a region-matchup tonight.
The Colts are coming off a bye after it fell to Murray County on Sept. 20, 27-7. Austin Hernandez had a 9-yard rushing touchdown for his team's only score in the loss.
Haralson County defeated Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe last week, 36-22.
Last meeting: Haralson County won in 2018, 37-19.
Northwest Whitfield 3-1, 0-0 in Region 6-4A) at Ridgeland (1-3, 1-0 in Region 6-4A), 7:30 p.m.
Northwest opens its region schedule tonight as it travels to Ridgeland.
The Bruins had a bye last week after defeating Temple on Sept. 20, 31-7. Bailey McQuaig and Bryce Mantooth each scored rushing touchdowns, while Owen Brooker threw one touchdown to Matt Redmond. Jake Fossett recovered a fumble in the end zone, and Yahir Zapata had one field goal for the other scores in the win.
Ridgeland defeated Heritage last week, 25-20.
Last meeting: Ridgeland won in 2018, 35-20.
Southeast Whitfield (0-5, 0-1 in Region 6-4A) at Pickens (3-2, 1-0 in Region 6-4A), 7:30 p.m.
Southeast travels to Pickens tonight in a region game as it is still looking for its first win of the season.
The Raiders fell in their region-opener last week in a lightning-shortened game to LaFayette, 33-6. Adam Sowder found Bryson Lofton for their only score of the night.
Pickens is coming off a win over Gilmer last week, 35-23.
Last meeting: Pickens won in 2018, 49-13.
North Murray (4-1, 3-0 in Region 6-3A) at Murray County (3-2, 1-2 in Region 6-3A), 7:30 p.m.
North Murray is still on its mission to win the first region title in school history as it travels to cross-county rival Murray County tonight.
The Mountaineers had their game end early last week due to strong rain and lightning, picking up a win over Adairsville, 28-0. Noah Lunsford led the team with two rushing touchdowns, while Ladd McConkey rushed for one and threw another to Hayden Hulett.
The Indians dropped last week's game at Sonoraville, 34-3, with the only score on a Elber Romero field goal.
Last meeting: North Murray won in 2018, 55-3.