This story originally appeared in Cal's Kickoff Game Progam on Oct. 13, 2007.
By Tim Miguel, California Media Relations
While California was preparing for the 2006 season opener at Tennessee, the parents of senior offensive lineman Mike Gibson were trying to get tickets and a flight to Knoxville to see their son play in his first game as a Golden Bear. There was just one problem - they could have been the only members of the family at that game. Gibson, a junior college transfer who wasn't at the top of the depth chart at the time, did not know if he would even make the trip, let alone play in the game.
Gibson, who did make the trip and saw action in the game, no longer has to worry about being on the travel list.
Emerging as one of the Bears' leading offensive linemen, Gibson earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors last year. He got his big chance when he replaced an injured Scott Smith, and he did not disappoint. He appeared in every game last year, made nine starts and recorded 30.5 knockdown blocks and a team-best 11 cuts.
"I was just trying to do what I had been doing for the past few years," Gibson said. "That's why they recruited me, especially right out of junior college. They wanted me to make an impact right away. I'm just glad I got the opportunity to do that. Unfortunately Scott got hurt, but when I got in there, I just did what I had to do."
Gibson, who grew up an Oregon and Notre Dame fan, was recruited out of high school by Division 1-AA schools as a defensive lineman more than an offensive lineman. Instead he attended Solano Community College, where he would go on to earn All-America honors on the O-line.
During his first semester in Berkeley, Gibson struggled with school, but thanks to offensive coordinator Jim Michalczik and the team's Academic Game Plan, Gibson's grades improved significantly last spring. He now has raised the bar for his goals on and off the field.
"I'd love to make first-team All-Pac-10 and All-American; I believe they're realistic goals," Gibson said. "After the season, we'll see how everything goes. I'm going to graduate after this upcoming summer, which will be awesome for me because I've never been that big on academics, and now I'll finally get to graduate and work towards something."
One of his post-graduation goals is to give back to the community. Gibson, who is majoring in business, hopes to open his own sports facility for high school kids, something he said he didn't have when he was in high school.
Although Gibson feels that offensive linemen don't get the recognition that they deserve, he knows his efforts are appreciated among his teammates. According to Gibson, the reward for offensive linemen is knowing that it was their efforts that played a major role in allowing the featured players to do what they do best.
"When you see a running back go on a 20-yard run and he jumps up all fired up and ready to go, that motivates us," Gibson said. "If Justin Forsett gets 1,000 yards, that's his deal, he ran the ball, he's doing a great job, but that's kind of a trophy for us. That's our glory, seeing him succeed. A famous quote that I heard when I was in high school was, `All pain, no glory. The life of a lineman, I'd never trade it.' That's something that I've lived by and that's something all linemen live by. That's the lifestyle of the job."
One of the reasons why the offensive and defensive lines are arguably the tightest units on a football team is because every man on the line of scrimmage has to do his part or the entire line fails. Gibson said the toughest part of being an offensive lineman is going out and having to give a 100 percent effort when his body doesn't feel anywhere near 100 percent.
Despite being on the team just a little over a year, Gibson knows his leadership role as a senior. His preference is to lead by example, but he said if the other linemen aren't able to be the vocal leader, he knows he needs to fill in the void and assume the role.
As much as he wishes his time at Cal was longer than two years, Gibson is grateful for the opportunity he received here, and is looking forward to his long-awaited college diploma.
"Everything that I've done here has been awesome," Gibson said. "Off the field, I just want to graduate. That would be one of the happiest days of my life. I know it would be for my family also. I know it's been short, but it's been sweet."